Right Thinking From The Left Coast
The Government is merely a servant -- merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. - Mark Twain

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nickels and Dimes on the Brain

You know, there are some liberal pundits whose influence I can understand.  Paul Krugman, for example, is frequently wrong but at least won a Nobel Prize and has said some right things about trade.  So I can understand why people pay attention to him.  Ezra Klein is at least honest and brings facts to the table—it was his writing that brought Paul Ryan to my attention.  There are others—Ta-Nehisi Coates, Matthew Yglesias, Glenn Greenwald—who I profoundly disagree with but have a least a modicum of respect for.

But there is a group of liberal pundits—people like Naomi Klein and Thomas Frank and Michael Moore—who are so frequently wrong, so frequently idiotic, so easily debunked that I’m puzzled why anyone pays attention to them.  Well you can throw Barbara Ehrenreich into that pile.  She continues to prove that her book Nickled and Dimed (or How to Stay Poor and Fail in America by Really Really Trying) was just the tip of the idiot iceberg:

Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans’ jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over. Tell British students that their tuition is about to go up and they take to the streets; American students just amp up their doses of Prozac.

Well mainly, because Americans aren’t as stupid as the Greeks and certainly not as stupid as college students of any nationality.  These people believe that governments can be an endless source of money—that all we need to is raise taxes or “cut waste” and more money can magically appear. Most Americans do not believe this.  Their over-riding concern right now is debt—personal debt, national debt, future debt.

Second of all, what the fuck is Ehrenreich talking about?  The Greeks and Brits are responding to ... actual budget cuts.  Our problem is this country is that our budgets are not being cut.  Bloated civil service payrolls, massive pensions and endless entitlements remain.  Ehrenreich wonders why college students aren’t protesting.  Well, that’s probably because they have nothing to complain about.  The Fed has increased education aide massively over the last decade, resulting in bloated university administration, incredible amenities and a declining personal cost at a bargain price of $100 billion a year.

And just who is this mysterious agency taking away people’s “jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes”?  My 403(b) is diminished, but no one has “taken” it from me (and its value was inflated by a bubble anyway).  If I lose my home, I’m going to lose it to the bank—you know, the people who actually own it.

Now what Ehrenreich may be trying to get at—it’s always hard to tell with her muddled writing—is that Americans should be mad that the banks that contributed to the bailout and the politicians who created the situation have gotten off scott free.  The banks got bailed out but didn’t have to fire anyone.  Congressmen got re-elected.

That is something to be mad about.  And indeed, Americans have protested against that.  You may have heard of it—it’s called the Tea Party.  I mean, I know the Tea Party are a bunch of racist redneck goobers.  But the bailouts and the economy are a big part of what they’re angry about.  And two of the biggest architects of our financial catastrophe—Chris Dodd and Barney Frank—were not exactly favorites of the Tea Party.

Ah, but as we will find out, Ehrenreich’s real purpose is to, in fact, bash the very Tea Party that is producing the protests she wants.  She goes on about how Glenn Beck’s listeners have been giving hell to Frances Fox Piven.  Piven, a college professor, penned an essay that is what Ehrenreich’s opening salvo would like to be when it grows up.  In it, she calls for mass protests of the jobless for public works programs.  Fox has been getting a heavy dose of threats and harassment.  (As Jim could tell you, Left wing pundits never ever highlight obscure commentators so that their followers can harass and threaten them).  So Ehrenreich argues, I think, that this is chilling any protests that might arise.  Gun ownership comes in for a requisite bashing as well.  And the Gabby Giffords’ shooting is used as ... actually, I’m not sure what it’s used as.

It’s ridiculous that Beck has focused on an otherwise obscure academic and labelled her “an enemy of the Constitution”.  And it’s terrible that people are threatening her.  But this has nothing to do with anything, as Conor Friersdorf demonstrates:

– The subset of Glenn Beck Web commenters who issue threats is perhaps the shoddiest data set in the history of bullshit extrapolation. Really, this is embarassing.

– Decades later, it’s easy to romanticize protests where American laborers took to the streets in times of economic turmoil. But as I well know from reading up on Depression-era labor strikes in California alone, those events were often driven by the desperation of people without anything resembling the safety net Americans enjoy today, and they often turned violent, sometimes due to rabble rousing protestors, other times because of overzealous riot police. Street protests themselves signal a failure of politics and policy, not a triumph.

– Say what you will about Glenn Beck, but it’s odd to criticize him for lessening the grass-roots mojo of Americans: he’s the guy who filled the national mall with his fans, a huge backer of Tea Party rallies all over the United States, and the inspiration for the Jon Stewart counter-rally for that matter. What a weird moment to write a long piece about how Americans aren’t taking to the streets anymore.

– Given the membership of the NRA and the profile of Tea Party demonstrators, it sure seems to me like gun owners are more likely to engage in politics in addition to buying guns, not less likely because they feel as if they’ve already said their piece by arming up.

“Really, this is embarrassing.” Too right.  But it’s become a more and more common meme among the Left.  Why are here no big protests?  Oh, sorry, we meant Left wing protests.  We need rabble rousing!  Oh, but not Glenn Beck’s rabble rousing.  Sigh.  We wish we’d been born back when America was a more desperate, more impoverished and more violent place.

It’s a bunch of crap. To fix our economic situation, we need a stable debt situation, a streamlined tax and regulatory structure and less politicization of investment and development. Americans, thankfully, know this will not be achieved by screaming and yelling and rioting.  It will be achieved the way Americans usually achieve things—by putting our shoulder into it and working our asses off.  It will be achieved by competent leadership.  And it will especially be achieved by ignoring over-educated Lefties pining for a bygone age of political activism that never existed.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 01/31/11 at 07:41 AM in Left Wing Idiocy  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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