Sam Seder: Economic Libertarianism is a fantasyland

Sam Seder nails it about libertarians and their puerile fantasies.

Building codes needed to protect against earthquakes?   “Are people in Haiti more free because they’re out from under the scourge of building codes?”  Government needed for safe water and food? A fire department?

“If you’re lucky you’ll be able to convince the rest of the American public that we should turn into Haiti.”

“It’s the most convenient fantasy world to live. It’s simply a way to go out and mentally masturbate on everything.”

Debate with the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Floria

How do liberals and conservatives differ? Review of Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind

According to Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are divided by politics and religion, liberals and conservatives differ significantly on the moral foundations on which they base their lives.  Haidt thinks that conservatives base their ethics on additional principles beyond those used by liberals, and those extra principles give conservatives an advantage during elections.

Specifically, Haidt thinks that liberals typically base their morality mostly on just two principles:

  1. Care/Harm (sympathy for suffering), and
  2. Fairness/Cheating (including righteous anger at injustice and cheaters)

Like liberals, conservatives also use the above two principles, says Haidt, but in addition they typically also use the following additional principles:

  1. Loyalty/Betrayal
  2. Authority/Subversion
  3. Sanctity/Degradation

Haidt presents empirical research and reasoned argument which support his Moral Foundations Theory explaining the differences.

I was impressed by Haidt’s erudtion, originality and clear writing.  What annoyed me was his over-simplification of liberal morality.

He defends conservatives and blames liberals for not understanding conservative ideology. Liberals typically think conservatives are irrational and selfish or mean. Not so, says Haidt. They have different values.

As liberals, “we never considered the possibility that there were alternative moral worlds in which reducing harm (by helping victims) and increasing fairness (by pursuing group-based equality) were not the main goals.” (p 126) Haidt says that liberals often want equality of outcome, not just equality of opportunity.

I think Haidt gives conservatives too much credit and overstates the differences.

Haidt says conservatives are better at maintaining a group identity — Loyalty to their group. But, I say, this applies to smaller groups than the nation or the entire planet. Liberals believe in a strong central government and loyalty to that government and the world community.  Liberals in fact have a wider scope for their loyalty and identification. Nowadays most conservatives seem hostile to the central government and to international cooperation.  Conservatives restrict their care to their families or in-groups.   Liberals are quite concerned about loyalty and betrayal — not just to themselves and their kin.

Haidt quotes a conservative who says he doesn’t want his tax dollars going to “a non-producing, welfare collecting, single mother, crack baby producing future Democrat.”  (p 210) It’s the “makers versus takers” meme: we need to reward hard work and avoid rewarding laziness.

I think Haidt over-states the degree to which liberals want equality of outcome.

Conservatives often express outrage at free-riders — welfare moms.  But the real free-riders are Wall Street, military contractors, and tax-evading corporations and rich people…..

“Democrats often say that Republicans have duped these [working class] people into voting against their own self-interest. (That was the thesis of Thomas Frank’s 2004 book What’s the Matter with Kansas?.)  But from the point of view of Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory, rural and working-class voters were in fact voting for their moral interests.” (p 216)

See here for a video of a TED lecture in which Haidt summarizes his theory.

Later in the book, Haidt adds a sixth principle, Liberty/Oppression, which makes people rebel against domination by bullies. I don’t see much difference between this principle and 2. Fairness/Cheating.

“We humans have a dual nature — we are selfish primates.”  But, on the other hand, we “also long to be part of something larger and nobler than ourselves.”  In short, “We are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee.”   Chimps are quite individualistic and competitive; they don’t share and don’t cooperate much. (You’ll never see two chimps cooperatively carrying a log.) Bees, on the other hand, bees, like the social ants, are ultra-social;  they are totally subservient to the group.  Once you understand our dual nature, “the groupish and hivish things that people do make  a lot more sense.”    (p 255)

Humans’ devotion to groups is a source of great nobility and self-sacrifice, but it’s also a source of incredible violence (e.g., in war), due to devotion to the group.

As an over-simplification, libertarians are like chimps, while socialists are like bees.  Obviously, we need a mixture of individualism and groupism.

Oddly, conservatives seem better at cooperating and following the group than liberals, who always seem to be fighting among themselves.  The Left is divided. The Right’s coalition has endured despite its internal inconsistencies:  libertarians, necon hawks, social/religious conservatives, and corrupt capitalists.    Religious conservatives in particular are strongly into groupishness (restricted, perhaps, to fellow believers).

Haidt believes that ecstatic experiences that result from rituals, dances, marches, drugs, sports events, and other shared experiences function to activate our “hive mind.” Our capacity to fall in love with others can be hijacked to serve social and religious functions. But I suspect that Haidt conflates the various purposes that ecstasy serves.   He implies that altered states of trance and ecstasy are necessarily related to group consciousness.

Haidt says that religions “bind and blind”: bind people together in cohesive groups and blind them to truths.
The anthropologist Richard Sosis examined the history of 200 communes in the U.S. from the 19th century. “Just 6 percent of the secular [mostly socialist] communes were still functioning twenty years after their founding, compared to 39 percent of the religious communes.” (p 298). Surprisingly, the single most significant variable that predicted whether religious communes would succeed was the strictness of their rules: the more rules and sacrifices the commune had, the longer the commune persisted. But stringent rules didn’t help secular communes. Go figure. Are people masochists?

Haidt defends the notion of “group selection” — a hypothesis within evolutionary theory that says that Darwinian selection occurs not only at the individual level — competing for resources and mates — but also at the group level.  There is some controversy within biology about whether group selection happens for humans. Clearly it happens for social insects such as bees.

Haidt summarizes research showing that genetics, to a large degree, determines many of our traits: our IQ, whether we’ll become mentally ill, shyness, food preferences, your chance of getting a divorce, how religious you’ll be, and whether you’ll like abstract art. Even your political orientation. “Genetics explains between a third and half of the variability among people on their political attitudes.” (p 324)

After analyzing the DNA of 13,000 Australians, scientists recently found several genes that differed between liberals and conservatives. Most of them related to neurotransmitter functioning, particularly glutamate and serotonin, both of which are involved in the brain’s response to threat and fear. The finding fits well with many studies showing that conservatives react more strongly than liberals to signs of danger… Other studies have implicated genes related to receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has long been tied to sensation-seeking and openness to experience, which are among the best established correlates of liberalism. (p 325)

Later….

I find it ironic that liberals generally embrace Darwin and reject “intelligent design” as the explanation for design and adaptation in the natural world, but they don’t embrace Adam Smith as the explanation for design and adaptation in the economic world. They sometimes prefer the “intelligent design” of socialist economies, which often ends in disaster from a utilitarian point of view. (p 356)

Haidt misrepresents the situation. First, most liberals are in favor of the capitalism and the free market — provided it’s regulated and balanced by regulations and sensible government initiatives. To design a car, or run a corporation, or write a book, or build a successful economy and society, you need a fair degree of top-down design and planning. It’s a myth that laissez-faire capitalism would work.  Haidt vastly over-estimates the degree to which the market system is responsible for our prosperity. Government and central planning played a huge role. See Countering anti-govt propaganda.

Haidt says that social conservatives are “right that you don’t usually help the bees by destroying the hive.” (p 366). But in fact liberals want a hive: a strong central government. Similarly, liberals respect Authority and Sanctity — of the national government and its symbols. Conservatives (libertarians, anyway) want to weaken the central government.

Haidt says that libertarians resemble liberals in many ways but ally with Republicans because they have a common enemy: “the liberal welfare society that they believe is destroying America’s liberty (for libertarians) and moral fiber (for social conservatives).” (p 353). Most liberals that I know are middle class or upper middle class. They’re not so concerned with protecting welfare for the lower class. They’re more concerned about stopping corruption, militarism, environmental destruction, and welfare for the rich.

 

Without government, we'd be hunter-gatherers

According to the Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, the transition from a society based on hunter-gathering  to a modern state progressed hand-in-hand with the development of agriculture.  Government protections and laws enabled trade, storage, and distribution systems. Surpluses resulting from agriculture funded government.   Farm labor could be enlisted for government projects and wars.  Government is needed both to protect private property and for the common good. Trade, specialization, wide distribution of resources, and public safety were some of the benefits of government.

Rousseau’s theory of the social contract held that people form governments when they freely and presciently realize that banding together and agreeing to subordinate their selfish aims to the greater good would raise everyone’s standard of living and well-being.  But Diamond suggests that Rousseau’s theory is a fantasy.  In reality, smaller groups of people (bands, villages, tribes, city states, etc) amalgamated into larger units under pressure of war (by being invaded) or under threat of war.

But even though Rousseau’s theory of the social contract is probably untrue, it is nonetheless true, says Diamond, that there was a form of “group selection” [my term] among political units: larger, organized groups out-competed the more primitive, disorganized groups.   This was true both economically and in terms of warfare.

Furthermore, post facto, now that we have government, social contract arguments can be used to justify government, I believe.

Of course, the development of government wasn’t all for the good: oftentimes political leaders used government to enrich themselves, oppress the masses, and wage war.  Oftentimes nations develop religions or patriotic ideologies that are used to convince or frighten the people into obedience.

In addition to the benefits that accrue from government and agriculture, there is another factor that explains the rise of the modern state. People who lived in crowded communities, and in close proximity to domesticated animals, were forced to develop resistance to diseases. (Hence the “germs” part of Diamond’s title.)  When Europeans invaded and colonized other continents, they brought along contagious diseases which often decimated the local populations.

Diamond refutes another myth associated with Rousseau: the myth of the noble savage. In fact, most primitive cultures were quite violent, with many murders and many battles among neighboring groups.

I raised these issues of the historical origins of government because of the naive, Rousseau-inspired fantasies of anarchists and extreme libertarians, who imagine that without a (strong) central government we can maintain our quality of life. See Countering anti-government propaganda and Are Occupiers aiding Grover Norquist?.

Anarchism and Libertarianism

The May 13, 2013 issue of The New Yorker has an article by Kelefa Sanneh about anarchism, Paint Bombs: David Graeber’s “The Democracy Project” and the anarchist revival.  Marx envisioned an eventual classless, anarchist society, but to achieve it, he believed the workers must first seize the state and transform it. Anarchists such as Graeber reject such “authoritarian socialism,” which led to the repressions of the USSR and Maoist China.  Modern day anarchists, who were influential in the Occupy Movement, want a more direct transition to a horizontal, non-hierarchical society. But, says, Sanneh: “For anarchists, the major historical precursors [examples of successful, modern anarchic societies] are so fleeting as to be nearly non-existent: the Paris Commune lasted scarcely two months, in 1871; anarchists dominated Catalonia for about a year, after the Spanish revolution in 1936.”

What the Occupy Movement prefigured is an organic, non-hierarchical, localist form of society, “a kind of decentralized socialism, with decisions made by a patchwork of local assemblies and cooperatives.” The disorganization of Occupy, and its refusal to agree to “demands” and declarations, are seen as a feature, not a bug, of the movement.  The fact that the movement dissolved, under the pressure of infighting, as well as substantial police suppression, calls into question the viability of such disorganized entities.  Like it or not, organization works.  Consider the success of corporations, which are highly organized, and the success of nations like Singapore, which combined capitalism with strong central planning, industrial policy, and law-making from a central (indeed, repressive) government.

Like libertarians on the right, Graeber argues that economic inequality is mostly due to the state’s actions in support of oppressors.

Sanneh draws the connection between anarchist Occupiers and the libertarian-inspired Tea Party.  Though the Occupy Movement fizzled when it became clear that its effect on electoral politics would be minimal, “there is one anarchist would who could be considered influential in Washington… His name is Murray Rothbard, and among small-government Republicans, he is something of a cult hero.”  Rothbard was an anarcho-capitalist.  In contrast, many Occupiers are anarcho-socialists.

Anarcho-capitalists acknowledge and celebrate human greed and creativity, and think that in a free market (free from the interfering regulations and corruptions of the state), just distribution of wealth will emerge — or at least, as good a distribution of wealth as can be achieved by us imperfect humans. “Without government, people will .. be just as creative or greedy or competent as we are now, only freer.  Instead of imagining a world without drastic inequality, anarcho-capitalists imagine a world where people and their property are secured by private defense agencies, which are paid to keep the peace.”

Sounds like Somalia with its warlords, to me.

I suppose anarcho-capitalists think that the cure (government) is worse than the disease (greed, anarchy).

Anarcho-socialists acknowledge human greed but think that humans can be perfected, so that everyone will treat others with respect, and people can cooperate freely and locally without hierarchy.   I admit: I’ve read some articles about anarchism but I  just don’t “get” it. It seems unrealistic to me, especially given the need for government to provide a counter-weight to corporations, which won’t be disappearing any time soon (barring catastrophe), and to provide for services such as education, public health, research, and public transportation.

Of course, most libertarians are not anarchists. Most libertarians believe in minimal government (sufficient to provide for policing to protect private property and little else).  Similarly, most leftists in America aren’t anarchists either.   My hope is to make clear the need for a mixture of private and public power.

Even Graeber supports socialized medicine and the taxes to pay for it.   Sanneh teases Graeber for protesting against government budget cuts and for taxation: an anarchist wanting bigger government.

I thank Political Science Prof. Mark A. Smith of the University of Washington, who recommended that I check out Diamond’s ideas.

Countering anti-government propaganda: the case of the Freedom Foundation

If you listen to right-wing AM talk radio, or visit conservative websites, you’ll be subject to relentless propaganda about how government is inefficient and doesn’t produce anything of value.

Conservatives just love to hate government.  And they love to talk about “freedom” and “liberty.”

Of course, the anti-government propaganda is nonsense. Thanks to government we have the Internet, civil right protections, potable water, seat belts, parks, libraries, roads, police protection, contracts, labor laws, childhood immunization, public transit, traffic laws, Social Security, Medicare, and the middle class.

Imagine trying to run a business without government protections, laws, and services.

Imagine how crowded our roads would be without public transportation. Imagine our air without pollution controls. Imagine driving without traffic laws.

How would businesses ship their goods without government transportation facilities and laws?

Government-run health care systems in Europe and elsewhere produce higher quality health care at a fraction of the cost of America’s inefficient market-based system.

Conservatives love to hate public schools, but the nations that out-compete us in primary and secondary education have strong public school systems.  See Finnish Lessons on why Finland’s public education system is #1 in the world. The American schools that perform poorly are the ones in poorer communities.

It makes sense that conservative politicians and pundits would say government is bad and that freedom is great.  They want to convince the public to keep taxes low and to deregulate industry, since low taxes and deregulation benefit the corporations and rich people who fund the politicians, think tanks, and pundits producing the anti-government propaganda.

Sure the corporations want freedom. They want to be free to offshore jobs and profits, evade taxes, pollute the water and air, produce dangerous products, fix prices,  monopolize markets, and corrupt Congress.  What kind of freedom is that?

The anti-government ideology of the right is the biggest scam foisted on the American people.

We the Government built all these

The founding fathers of our country tried small government, the Articles of Confederation, and found it wanting. They saw the need for a strong central government that would “provide for the general welfare.”

Government runs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the EPA, and the FDA, to protect our health and safety. The FAA regulates air travel. The NOAA forecasts weather. FEMA is tasked with coming to the rescue in case of natural disasters.

Government regulates finance through the SEC, the FDIC, and the now expired Glass-Stegall Act; reckless deregulation was a major cause of the subprime loan disaster and ongoing financial chaos.

Government maintains national parks and supports conservation and smart transportation. It funds fundamental and applied research that benefits industry and humanity. It teaches our children and takes care of elderly, sick, and indigent citizens’ medical needs.

Thanks to government we have fuel efficiency standards. Think how much better off we’d all be if 20 years ago Congress had instituted more stringent standards. We’d have saved many billions of additional dollars in oil costs and would have reduced the trade deficit and greenhouse gas emissions.

Thanks to government we are not in a deep depression. In 2008 the crybaby corporations ran to Uncle Sam for a bailout — after crashing the economy. But conservatives pretend they don’t need government. How well could corporations do business without government laws, protections, regulations, and bailouts?

"Cry "Cry "Cry

Thanks to government we still have GM producing cars.

In The Horrifying Hidden Story Behind Drug Company Profits and The Truth about the Drug Companies, a former Editor in Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine writes of the drug industry, “Instead of being an engine of innovation, it is a vast marketing machine. Instead of being a free market success story, it lives off government-funded research and monopoly rights.”

In fact, Without government, we’d still be hunter-gatherers.  The rise of agriculture developed hand-in-hand with the rise of governments, as discussed in Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.

Freedom Foundation’s propaganda

Here’s a concrete example of anti-government propaganda.   Washington State’s Freedom Foundation  is a right wing think tank whose mission is “to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government.”   The Freedom Foundation blog contains an article by Jeff Rhodes:

No, public works projects don’t create jobs

I’ve often wondered why the state can’t be held to the same legal standard as a private-sector company when it comes to blatant false advertisement. To be specific, I was driving along State Route 3 near Shelton a few days ago when I was delayed by a road work project. My frustration, of course, immediately intensified when I noticed the obligatory signage informing me the construction had “created” several dozen jobs. Which is a bare-faced lie. Contrary to popular misconception – promoted shamelessly by those in the business of spending someone else’s hard-earned money – government is incapable of creating anything. Yes, there are people working on a road construction project who might be unemployed without it, but they’re being paid with money confiscated from the private sector that would otherwise be used to invest in businesses that also hire employees. The difference is, private companies base their spending decisions on actual market forces and, consequently, tend to make investments that result in higher profits and have the potential to create jobs and grow the size of the state’s economic pie. Government, on the other hand, at best simply takes a private-sector job (or two, given the lavish wages ensured by laws like the Davis-Bacon Act) and moves it to the public sector at the whim of a bureaucrat or politician with no particular talent for picking winners and losers. None of which is to suggest every public-sector job is unnecessary. Certainly we need our military to safeguard our freedoms, our police and fire fighters to protect our lives and property and, yes, road construction crews to build and maintain our infrastructure. But the argument for these positions isn’t that government has the power to create jobs out of thin air, because it can’t. It’s that some functions – far fewer than our political leaders would have you believe – are essential to fund precisely because they don’t reduce the unemployment rate.

Mr Rhode’s reasoning is faulty.   The government created plenty of things (the Internet, for example, and numerous others medicines and technologies from research funding).  The government can create a job to the same extent that a corporation can create a job.   When people need a product or a service, they can pay money either to a corporation or, via taxes and fees, to the government, which sometimes contracts out the work to a private corporation.

Why exactly isn’t the government creating a job?  Rhodes make the following argument: “Yes, there are people working on a road construction project who might be unemployed without it, but they’re being paid with money confiscated from the private sector that would otherwise be used to invest in businesses that also hire employees.”  Rhodes uses the loaded word “confiscate,” but one can equally say that corporations confiscate money from the people and thereby prevent the government from creating the job.   Rhodes needs to show that government is inherently or consistently inferior for providing goods and services.  His argument to that effect is this:

The difference is, private companies base their spending decisions on actual market forces and, consequently, tend to make investments that result in higher profits and have the potential to create jobs and grow the size of the state’s economic pie. Government, on the other hand, at best simply takes a private-sector job (or two, given the lavish wages ensured by laws like the Davis-Bacon Act) and moves it to the public sector at the whim of a bureaucrat or politician with no particular talent for picking winners and losers.

True, some goods and services are best provided by the market system.  In particular, goods and services requiring high tech components or complex allocation of resources and supply chains can more efficiently handled by corporations, which can innovate and compete to provide the goods or services more efficiently.   But for other goods and services, not requiring such complex decisions,  the government does an equal or better job.  In fact, government is like the Operating System of your computer: it provides certain services that application programs can’t efficiently provide. See Government is like a computer operating system.

If there is competitive bidding, and if government workers are held accountable, then government is quite capable of  making the required resource allocations.

Take the case of the US military. It often contracts out work (on a no-bid basis) to politically connected private companies, who charge much higher prices than equivalent work done by government workers.   Soldiers are paid a fraction of the salary of private contractors.  (Historically, Republican politicians have been the most protective of the bloated and corrupt Pentagon budgets.)

Public banks, as in North Dakota, are another example where government can provide a service at a savings to taxpayers. Why let Wall Street banks siphon off fees and interest?  Government is quite capable of providing that service.

Conservatives accuse government of providing little of value. Rather, it’s Wall Street and the financialization of the economy that produces little of value.

Health care funding and payments are another example of a bureaucratic service that the government is quite capable of providing.  There is little scope for innovation in insurance and medical funding. It’s mostly a bureaucratic process of following rules. Government run health care in Europe yields better outcomes (in terms of longevity, infant mortality and the number of uninsured people) than America’s market based system, at a fraction of the cost.  Moreover, can there ever be a market-based system for medical care?  “Cut rate heart surgery til the end of the week!”

Not everything is optimized by market forces and competition.  Top-down planning is useful for some needs. This is apparent even within corporations:  there is limited or little competition between departments and divisions of most corporations. Production and operations are highly organized in a top-down manner.   Countries such as Singapore, Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Japan have significant central planning and oversight of the market but are out-competing the U.S. on many measures of affluence and well-being.

Especially for public goods (such as clean air and water, police protections, investigative journalism, public health, research, and education) the market system has not been shown to be capable of providing the needed services and protections, because people are inherently selfish and short-sighted.  The benefits of public goods accrue to everyone equally, and due to  selfishness, short-sightedness, and the problem of “free riders” we can’t expect the market system to allocate resources to such needs.  Most people aren’t smart enough and far-sighted enough to make the right choices with their money when it comes to education, health, and science.  They need guidance from government.

Besides, corporations regularly receive subsidies, government contracts, and military services,  to open markets and obtain resources.  The government is always involved in picking winners and losers.  There’s no such thing as a totally free market.

FDR and the New Deal produced the middle class -- Paul Krugman

So, next time you hear conservative repeat their anti-government propaganda, think of the Internet and the middle class.

See also Without government, we’d be hunter-gatherers and Bring on the Reagan Counterrevolution.

The Tea Party to the Rescue?

I’m tempted to to say it: hallelujah for the Tea Party and for Ron Paul Republicans!

President Obama and the Democrats couldn’t find the will or the way to cut the outrageous military budget. But the New York Times is reporting that fiscal hawks within the GOP are winning out over the incensed military hawks:  Republican “lawmakers most keenly dedicated to shrinking the size of government are now more dominant than the bloc committed foremost to a robust national defense, particularly in the House.” See Acceptance of Defense Cuts Signals Shift in G.O.P. Focus.

Now, of course, the budget cuts will hit domestic programs hard too. Many people will suffer greatly.  And I detest libertarians’ opposition to regulation, taxation, and the common good.  Many of the Tea Party members are racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and in the thralls of the NRA and the Koch brothers.

But, as Dennis Kucinich is fond of saying, progressives need to make alliances on issues such as military spending.

Of course, I shouldn’t rush to celebrate.    Things could change before sequestration kicks in.  And I’ve heard it claimed that even with sequestation, military spending will increase.  [Alas, see Addendum below.] But according to the NY Times article, military cuts are for real.

A sizable number of Republicans, including many senators, are incensed by the cuts about to fall on the Pentagon, totaling $43 billion for the 2013 fiscal year. Because the Defense Department will have only seven months to put them into effect and because military personnel are protected, military training, weapons acquisition and maintenance stand to be cut by 13 percent.

Still, it is disturbing that Republicans, not Obama, are the ones pushing for defense cuts.

In related news, HuffPost is reporting:  Walter Jones, GOP Congressman, Hits Dick Cheney Over Iraq War.

Addendum:  there is more evidence that even with the sequestration cuts, the military budget wills still rise.  According to Top Senate Republican doubts damage from defense cuts, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas says, “that until now he had been parroting what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta continuously warns — that automatic, government-wide cuts could jeopardize national security. … But the veteran senator said he looked into it and will now argue that even if the cuts go through on March 1, the Pentagon will still see its budget go up.”

Pee and politics

Raw Story reports:

Emmy Award-winning The Mary Tyler Show actor Ed Asner recently asked a Fox News producer if he could “piss on” him after he was confronted about a California Federation of Teachers video that showed cartoon rich people urinating on poor people.

Fox News host Sean Hannity and other conservative pundits first began attacking Asner on Tuesday after the animated ad that he narrated appeared on the federation’s website to explain how rich people used tax evasion, tax loopholes and tax cuts to become even richer.

(See Ed Asner offers to ‘piss on’ Fox News producer to demonstrate trickle-down economics.)

Here’s the hard-hitting California Federation of Teachers video.   It exposes the class warfare the rich waged against the rest of us.

That story impels me to resurrect this crude animation:

Grover Norquist explains trickle down (crude):


(watch on YouTube)

Andew Mellon's anti-tax crusade in the 1920s foreshadows the Koch brothers' libertarian crusade now

The week’s New Yorker has an article “Tax Time: why we pay” by Jill Leopre.  The article decries the failure of liberals to defend taxation. Here’s some history about the 1920s anti-tax efforts of Andrew Mellon and other rich people.

“The American Bankers League renamed itself the American Taxpayers League, and began sponsoring, providing literature to, and paying the expenses of state ‘tax clubs,’ whose members then testified before Congress, urging tax cuts.  During Mellon’s tenure, and at his recommendation, the excess-profits tax was abolished, the estate tax was cut, capital gains were exempted from income, and the top tax rate was capped at twenty-five percent. … in 1924 the only Americans who paid more in taxes than Mellon were John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Henry Ford, and Edsel Ford. In 1929, a Senate investigation found that members of the Mellon family had helped bankroll the American Taxpayers League.

Of course, the New Deal reversed the anti-tax craze of the 20s and resulted in decades of prosperity and relative income equality.   But since Reagan anti-tax ideology and propaganda have held sway, income inequality has soared, and the economy has tanked.   Taxes are called “socialistic” and “The richest one percent of households now holds more than a third of the nation’s wealth, which was about where things stood in 1913.”