Sen. Compassion?

by Don Boudreaux on August 30, 2009

in Myths and Fallacies, Other People's Money, Politics

Here’s a letter that I just sent to the Los Angeles Times:

You say that Ted Kennedy’s “most enduring legacy is that he kept reminding us of how great we could be if we chose compassion over complacency” (“Ted Kennedy, America’s conscience,” August 30).

Words are cheap.  Anyone can preach compassion, and even be free and generous with other people’s money.  The late Sen. Kennedy mastered these talents.  But surely what really matters is how generous Mr. Kennedy was with his own money.  Sadly, the answer is “not very.”

While he almost always kept his income-tax returns secret, Mr. Kennedy was obliged to release them during his run for the presidency in 1980.  These records reveal that Sen. Compassion – worth $8 million at the time (nearly $20 million in today’s dollars) and earning an annual income of close to $500,000 (almost $1.3 million in today’s dollars) – contributed a whopping one percent of his income to charity.  This percentage figure is a paltry one-fourth the size of the charitable contributions, made at the same time, of the less-wealthy Ronald Reagan.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

My point, to be clear, is not that Reagan was a saint; he certainly was not.  Rather, my point is that Ted Kennedy certainly was not a saint — not even close.  Ted Kennedy, like 999 out of every 999.0001 politicians, was a fraud.

(HT Barry Conner)

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{ 91 comments }

Anonymous August 30, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I’d also be curious to see the extent to which he strove to reduce his tax burden.

Another great post. I would always defer to family and friends privately paying respect to a person they loved for their personal knowledge of him. But this funeral has become a public tribute to the worst of that man, and propaganda to promote the worst of this country.

Anonymous August 30, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Reagan cut his own taxes by 20% and spent MORE of FUTURE other peoples money raising the deficit massively and raising SSI taxes massively on the middle class.

Now that’s despicable and cowardly.

Anonymous August 30, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Bravo for criticizing Reagan’s deficits. But you simultaneously defend Obama’s deficits which dwarf Reagan’s? I’m trying to figure out if you are more fool or hypocrite.

Anonymous August 30, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Couple of things Viking. The debt to GDP ratio was going steadily down until Reagan took over over. Then it shot up. ( Right or Wtrong?)

I believe the federal debt tripled during his 8 years. (Right or Wrong)

When Obama took over the country was falling into the worst recession since the Great Depression and the debt to GDP was going up fast. (right or wrong?)

Now you tell me when Obama triples the debt.

Until then I’d argue it its you who is both a fool and a hypocrite and factually challenged.

I know you want to get mad and hate me but I’m right about these facts aren’t I ?

MWG August 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Yea, and the dems in control of congress didn’t spend a dime right?

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 12:41 am

The president puts for his budget and then has veto power over the budget he gets from congress. So put away your piss ant excuse and man-up and take responsibility for reagans excesses.

All you guys have is excuses and denial… no facts

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 12:02 am

Murg, I’m not mad at you, and I don’t hate you. I pity you, and I find you an enigma, but I couldn’t possibly hate you.

As usual, you respond to my post as though you did not read it. I praised you for your criticism of the deficits under Reagan.

And as usual you are inexplicably mixing apples and oranges in your comparisons–first debt:GDP ratio, then Reagan’s absolute deficit numbers. You discount deficits under Obama because of his inherited recession, but don’t apply the same judgement to Reagan.

Then, of course, you completely ignore readily available common knowledge. Obama’s current and projected deficits AND debt in absolute terms AND per GDP are far higher than Reagan’s ever were (and that is NOT a defense of Reagan):

http://www.kowaldesign.com/budget/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt
http://www.cbo.gov/

Murg, in what way does this propaganda serve you? You couldn’t possibly believe all the nonsense you spew, and you have been made aware for years that folks on this web site are not so ignorant as to be persuaded by your transparent sophistry. So, why do you do it? Is it really worth the loss of your integrity?

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 1:08 am

viking,

Glad to hear you don’t hate me. I’ll sleep better tonight. But don’t pity me either I’m a very happy person.

Anyway. When does the fiscal year end and start? Who’s budget is this current one officially?

Oh and during the Clinton years did he ever have a real surplus and if not who changed the accounting rules to allow Clinton to make such claims of surplus?

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 2:38 pm

The deficit/surplus to GDP graph is very instructive. I wonder why it went up during 1976 – 1980 and straight up during 1992 – 2000 and mostly down during the other years.

Peter .B.P. August 31, 2009 at 9:10 am

I find it amusing that muirgeo think he can defend Kennedy by attacking Reagan.

Hint: This isn’t a RR fanclub. You’re barking up the wrong tree.

As for your claims:

>Couple of things Viking. The debt to GDP ratio was going steadily down until Reagan took over over. Then it shot up. ( Right or Wtrong?)

Wrong. http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j186/DonaldDouglas/Americaneocon/ratio.png

It actually slowly got better, averaged over the 8 years of Reagans precidency.

>I believe the federal debt tripled during his 8 years. (Right or Wrong)

Correct.

>When Obama took over the country was falling into the worst recession since the Great Depression and the debt to GDP was going up fast. (right or wrong?)

Debt to GDP was going up, yes, however the deficit was being reduced, albeit slowly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Deficits_vs._Debt_Increases_-_2008.png

>Now you tell me when Obama triples the debt.

Yes, and clearly that is a fact you don’t like.

>Until then I’d argue it its you who is both a fool and a hypocrite and factually challenged.

That would make you look foolish.

>I know you want to get mad and hate me but I’m right about these facts aren’t I ?

Not particularly. Facts speak for themselves, but they do not select themselves, and you have clearly put your own spin on them.

-p

muirgeo August 31, 2009 at 11:18 am

No Peter, I said DEBT to GDP not debt to GDP.

http://news.mortgagecalculator.org/images/National-Debt-GDP.gif

Then you said, “….however the deficit was being reduced, albeit slowly.” Really??/ Going from a surplus of ~$150 billion in his (Bush’s) first year to a maximum deficit off $450 billion in 2008 is “reduced slowly”?

But you were right when you said, “That would make YOU look foolish.” and “Facts speak for themselves…”

And finally the current fiscal year started in Oct 2008. I don’t think Obama was president then.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 1:22 am

I’m trying to figure out if you are more fool or hypocrite.

Yes he is.

Justin P August 31, 2009 at 1:31 am

How about all of the above?

Charles N. Steele August 31, 2009 at 2:09 am

Muirgeo: By Kotlikoff’s intergenerational accounting, the social security tax increase put Reagan’s long run fiscal position into the black. So either Reagan increased deficits (usual accounting), or reduced them (IGA)…and either way you condemn him for it. “Despicable and cowardly” poorly describes Reagan, but “uninformed, incoherent, and bilious” sums up your position nicely.

muirgeo August 31, 2009 at 11:34 am

You really don’t understand what Reagen did do you? That’s sad. You should research it a bit more.

Justin P September 1, 2009 at 1:57 am

Then why don’t you explain it?

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 7:01 am

Tax rates were cut, hypocrite. And the rates weren’t cut by executive fiat. Congress passed a bill that the President signed into law. Jesus H Christ, you act as if presidents were kings. Probably because you need a ruler to tell you what to do.

Only government can determine how much liberty a man needs to be free.

Anonymous August 30, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Great argument against hereditary wealth.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 12:05 am

Great argument against hereditary office.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 12:17 am

At some level of wealth, it’s the same thing. We don’t title people “Lord” in the U.S. anymore, but the difference is academic.

Kennedy’s Senate seat isn’t hereditary in fact. Maybe he’d have spent 40 years in the seat without a multi-million dollar inheritance, but “freedom” from more productive effort certainly makes the campaigning easier.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 12:22 am

“Maybe he’d have spent 40 years in the seat without a multi-million dollar inheritance”

Not so much the money, but the name (which of course was influenced by his father’s money). There are richer Massachusens who never hold office. His name is the reason.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 12:27 am

I agree, but the family name is not unconnected to the family wealth.

But the existence of the office is the problem in my way of thinking, not who holds it. The powers of the Senate are the problem, not the identity of the Senators. That goes for hereditary title too.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 12:18 am

Kennedy is no argument against inheritance. He’s simply an example that inherited wealth is not how people become wealthy. He pissed it away in the same way almost every beneficiary does. The Kennedy fortune eroded before him and in spite of him.

Given that sentiment — I still believe he probably made better use of the family funds than the government would have. Ouch.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 12:41 am

But inherited wealth is precisely how Kennedy became wealthy.The choice between hereditary title and governance by more central authorities is a false choice. Centralizing authority is the raison d’etre of hereditary title historically. Title holders were to select heirs respecting some party line, as in Christendom. It wasn’t about the “liberty” of title holders to realize their own will. That wasn’t the point at all.Markets can distribute the property of deceased title holders instead. Basically, a probate court holds an estate sale and burns the monetary proceeds. Someone buys the property, but the state has nothing from the sale.If a title holder wants to raise his children to govern the assets, he can educate them for this purpose. If he does this job well and the children share his ambition, they appeal more to creditors financing the purchase of the deceased title.I see nothing wrong with this standard on libertarian grounds. On the contrary, it respects market forces more than hereditary title.

And if Kennedy had been born with a debt to repay from the marginal value of his assets, rather than entitlement to consume the value pursuing political advantage, he might have lived a far more productive life, rather than the counterproductive, parasitic life he lived, creating debts for my children to repay.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 1:21 am

Why wait till he’s dead? Come to think of it, we apply your idea to all kulaks.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 2:04 am

I can think of many reasons not to sell off the fruits of a productive man’s labor and burn the monetary proceeds. Why would you want to do that?Kennedy didn’t produce his inheritance, so any rationale for your proposal has no bearing on the rationale for mine. In fact, Kulaks are precisely the buyers of deceased titles. Before the Stolypin reforms, entitling former serfs to buy parcels from feudal estates on credit, there were no Kulaks.

John Dewey August 31, 2009 at 2:22 pm

What right does the state have to determine how the assets of a man may be distributed? If I wish to provide for my family after my death, how can you possibly justify seizing the wealth I would pass on to them?

Who cares how Kennedy became wealthy? This is a slippery slope we would be wise to avoid. We cannot leave it to government to decide that humans have not earned the wealth which they possess and therefore have no right to that wealth. What’s the next step, Martin? That fashion models should not be compensated for the beauty they inherited? That athletes should not be compensated for the genes they were fortunate to be born with? That the compensation of genius should be limited to reflect that portion of their achievement which is inherited?

muirgeo August 31, 2009 at 3:03 pm

John, just as it sounds your belief leads to kingdoms and servitude. Democratically we ideally will diffuse the power of both politicians and inherited wealth.

This country was founded as a revolt against inherited wealth. There’s little reason for it at least in the severe degrees we see at the upper income levels.

Can you tell me what a man needs a billion dollars for that isn’tt about power and control over others?

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 4:13 pm

What right does the state have to determine how the assets of a man may be distributed?

It has more guns than everyone else. Might makes rights.

If I wish to provide for my family after my death, how can you possibly justify seizing the wealth I would pass on to them.

The same way you justify your right to decide the passage. If you don’t want the state enforcing this right, that’s fine, but I doubt that you’ll decide the passage in this scenario.

Your own force isn’t even the issue. You’re dead. Your heir’s force is the issue. Is he strong enough to defend the claim? Only this question is relevant in the state of nature, but you don’t want the state of nature. You want some artificial state established by armed men defending your heir’s claim.

Who cares how Kennedy became wealthy?

Isn’t that me?

This is a slippery slope we would be wise to avoid.

You don’t speak for us.

We cannot leave it to government to decide that humans have not earned the wealth which they possess and therefore have no right to that wealth.

This statement is nonsense. Of course, governments decide which claims they enforce.

What’s the next step, Martin?

There is no inevitable “next step” following an enactment of title expiration, just as there was no inevitable next step following estate taxes (which are different).

In fact, we enacted estate taxes at the Federal level, then cut and finally eliminated them. The elimination seems unlikely to survive, but your inevitable “slippery slope” is only a rhetorical ploy.

I can also argue that hereditary title, contract and the rest leads inevitably to slavery. This argument is as vaguely nonsensical as yours, but I can play the game this way if I please.

Look everyone! John Dewey favors forcible propriety, hereditary title and contract, and I say that these enactments lead to slavery, so John advocates slavery! Boo! Hiss!

That fashion models should not be compensated for the beauty they inherited?

No. Conflating a fashion model’s beauty with a forcible claim of mastery over some parcel of land is your self-deception, not mine. A fashion model’s beauty is a personal characteristic, essentially inseparable from her. It’s not remotely like title to a parcel of land. The comparison is incredible nonsense.

Does the state somehow secure the same beauty for a fashion model’s daughter? Of course not. Only nature can do so. The state can only secure for the less beautiful daughter entitlements that her mother accumulated. I’m not even sure it does the model’s daughter a favor this way, and I know it does my daughter no favor.

That athletes should not be compensated for the genes they were fortunate to be born with?

Same incredible conflation.

That the compensation of genius should be limited to reflect that portion of their achievement which is inherited?

Same again, but insofar as the compensation of a genius involves intellectual property, we have something to discuss. I’d eliminate many if not all patents, particularly software patents and business process patents. I’d shorten copyrights by a century or so, particularly for computer software. These reforms do not strengthen the state. They weaken the state.

scott clark August 30, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Far be it from me to defend any politician, and I am totally onboard with your point about compassion and other people’s money, but it is theoretically possible that they don’t report all their charitable givings because they don’t want to take the deduction, that they want to give privately and give to the govt. I know in my case I have given tax deducible donations that I didn’t keep records of so I didn’t put them on my TRs.

Anonymous August 30, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Is it plausible that someone as hungry for public office and public acclaim as was Ted Kennedy would have kept secret his private charitable contributions at the same time that he bragged about how generous he was with taxpayer funds?

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Uh, no.

matt August 31, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Seems both are plausible. Many people consider some portion (or maybe all!) of their taxes to be charitable giving.

This, of course, is no defense of Kennedy, but rather an agreement with Clark’s point that Dr. Boudreaux’s argument may need some polishing…

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 1:42 am

Scott,

It is theoretically possible that Teddy Kennedy and his entire social class are in fact disguised aliens from Alfa-Ceta in the Ambiguous Galaxy, which is near the Muirduck Black Hole of logic. And, thus it is also theoretically possible they would act in private to deny themselves a legitimate tax deduction (snort snicker snicker, guffaw) and present an humble face to the public; and, what the hell it is also theoretically possible that Teddy Kennedy gave enormous sums of money to the government in addition to taxes, but didn’t publicize it out of modesty (snort snicker snicker, guffaw)……..but how likely is that? Really?

DG Lesvic August 31, 2009 at 1:25 am

We keep hearing about the concerns of people like Sen. Kennedy for the least among us. But that apparently doesn’t include those who bear the real cost of their pro-labor” legislation, the excluded underclass of workers, driven into unemployment, for the sake of the higher wages of a privileged working class elite.

No doubt Muirgeo will tell us that laissez faire means: let the poor starve.

But, to Ludwig von Mises, it meant: “let the individual, the much talked about common man, choose and act…do not force him to yield to a dictator.”

And to common men the world over, it has meant: don’t force them to starve.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 2:38 am

“the excluded underclass of workers, driven into unemployment, for the sake of the higher wages of a privileged working class elite.”Not only driven into unemployment, but those who are employed in non-favored jobs are forced to pay higher prices for almost everything they buy. I thought of this the other day as I was walking into a Target store in suburban Detroit. Why are the people working at Target forced to pay more for cars and trucks so a few union workers can achieve upper middle class lifestyles? A recent article in Automotive News discusses India’s Mahindra Motors plans to either import trucks into the US or buy a factory to build them here. Weighing heavily on their decision is the fact that there is a 25% tariff on imported trucks. How is it that the politicians who advocate these types of policies have duped people into believing that they are doing it for the little guy?

kebko August 31, 2009 at 3:49 am

This and many other recent posts can be found in Don’s soon-to-be-published book; “How to Make Friends & Influence People by Pointing Out the Flaws of the Recently Deceased”.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 10:04 am

Do you really seriously believe Don was telling us something we didn’t already know, and agree with?

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Kebko, I get what you’re saying, and for what it’s worth I found all the Kennedy bashing from the right in the wake of his death to be disgusting. However, let me ask you, how much hagiography are we expected to put up with without comment? Calling Kennedy “America’s Conscience” implies that he was somehow serving as my conscience, and I’m a little offended by it. I already have a conscience, thank you very much, and the fact that I didn’t always agree with Mr. Kennedy’s initiatives doesn’t mean that I am in need of help in that area; it just means that people of conscience sometimes disagree about the best policies.

Do you really think it’s unreasonable for people like me to object when the dead man’s admirers suggest that we needed him to be our conscience?

kebko August 31, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I’m all for the cause. It’s just that between this & Michael Jackson, I wonder how Don looks to the casual observer.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Professor Boudreaux,Your continuing barrage of insults directed at the recently dead is in very poor taste. Senator Kennedy’s words and actions speak for themselves. So do yours. I wonder if you would like to post your tax returns on the blog so we could verify your compassion. And as a careful, quantitative economist, I wonder if you could tell us how we could verify your 999/999.001 fraud ratio for politicians. Or the ratio for economists?

Peter .B.P. August 31, 2009 at 3:45 pm

“Your continuing barrage of insults directed at the recently dead is in very poor taste.”

Translation: You don’t like him pointing out the harsh facts.

” Senator Kennedy’s words and actions speak for themselves.”

Indeed they do.

” So do yours. I wonder if you would like to post your tax returns on the blog so we could verify your compassion.”

The original author is not the person whose charity is in question here, pal.

” And as a careful, quantitative economist, I wonder if you could tell us how we could verify your 999/999.001 fraud ratio for politicians. Or the ratio for economists?”

Tu quoque… is not a valid argument.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Mr. Perlso,

A definition for you: “Tu quoque (pronounced /tuːˈkwoʊkwiː/, from Latin
for “You, too” or “You, also”) is a Latin term that describes a kind of
logical fallacy. A tu quoque argument attempts to discredit the opponent’s
position by asserting his failure to act consistently in accordance with that
position; it attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to
the person making it. It is considered an ad hominem argument, since it
focuses on the party itself, rather than its positions.”

My request for empirical evidence for the politician fraud ratio was not tu
quoque. It was a genuine question in response to a questionable assertion.
Were you referring to my comment about tax returns? Tu quoque, perhaps, ad
hominem surely, but in response to an ad hominem attack. I didn’t say that ad
hominem is falacious, only in this case, poor taste.

Kindest regards.

Peter .B.P. August 31, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Thank you, I know the definition of a Tu Quoque fallacy, and yes, is was an impled tu quoque, where you deflect the question by asking a rhetorical counterquestion instead of reasoning on whether or not the late Kennedy was charitable or not in regards to income.

Where has the original author made an ad hominem, either against you or TK?

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Let’s see. An ad hominem argument works like this:
1)Person A makes claim X.
2)Person B makes an attack on person A.
3)Therefore A’s claim is false

Professor Boudreaux’s argument went as follows:
1)Many people praise Senator Kennedy’s compassion
2)Professor Boudreaux attacks those who say this by citing Kennedy’s tax
returns with Ronald Reagan as evidence to the contrary
3)The claims of these woolly-headed liberals are false

I think you are right. Professor Boudreaux’s attack was not ad hominem. He
used evidence to contradict the funereal oratory. But, it was in poor taste.
Whatever Senator Kennedy’s ethical weaknesses, a respectful silence is a
better response to the effusion of praise that he has received. The praise is
a conventional response to the death of a famous person. Pointing out his
weaknesses is just poor taste.

MWG August 31, 2009 at 4:31 pm

“Mr. Compassion” (Kennedy) regularly lectured Americans about the need to be more compassionate… he went even further by confiscating other people’s wealth and giving it to other people in order to show them “compassion”, while at the same time he showed very little “compassion” in the way he used his own wealth.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Your continuing barrage of insults directed at the recently dead is in very poor taste.

By the same token, worshipful accolades for the recently powerful dead are in very rich taste.

MWG August 31, 2009 at 9:48 pm

“By the same token, worshipful accolades for the recently powerful dead are in very rich taste.”

Nice.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 6:04 pm

The LA Time article has this humdinger:

“Kennedy’s personal psychodrama mirrored the nation’s. His divisions were our divisions; his struggles, our struggles. Kennedy was us.”

Well, no. While is may be true that the nation has been, as Bork put it, “Slouching toward Gomorrah”, Kennedy’s “personal psychodramm” is quite a different kettle of fish.

Kennedy was not “us.” The statement if meaningless claptrap meant to evoke a connection. Rubbish, pure rubbish. That all people “struggle” is definitional in a world of scarce resources. Did Teddy “struggle”, yes; does everyone else, yes. So what? But “his struggles” were definitely NOT “our struggles”; for example, did anyone else “struggle” to beat the rap at Chappiquiddick?

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Martin Brock wrote:

No. I’m defining “right to do something” consistently. An armed robber has no right to take my wallet forcibly, because he is not the established monopoly of force; however, the established monopoly does have rights to my wallet, and it effectively demonstrates the rights every April 15th..

Nonsense. You are destroying the meaning of “right to do something“ by conflating it with “monopoly power“. This is hardly any more justified than simply conflating it with “power“.

An act doesn’t become “right” merely because it is done by those possessing monopoly power. The mass slaughters perpetuated by history’s various dictatorships are not “right” just because those who did it held “monopoly power”. Why on earth would you claim such a thing? It’s ridiculous.

The net effect of your approach to concepts is to obliterate any possible distinction between right and wrong. According to your definition — since both are acts of “monopoly power” — the police officer who interrupts an attempted rape, thereby saving the rape victim and apprehending the rapist, has the same moral standing as did Hussein’s thugs who dragged women at random off the streets of Baghdad into the regime’s rape rooms for a night of torture. According to your definitions, both parties had an equal “right” to do what they did. To equate rapists and murderers with those who protect us from rape and murder is a moral obscenity.

And this statement:

So the just man is a thief, and property is theft.

This is more nonsense. This is the logical fallacy of the “stolen concept”. The concept of “theft” only has meaning as a contrast to the antecedent concept of that which is “rightfully owned”, i.e. that which is, properly, “property”. To claim that property itself is theft, is to use one concept — “theft” — to deny the legitimacy of the very concept — “property” — that gives “theft” any meaning, which is, literally, a contradiction in terms.

Your entire epistemological approach destroys the meanings of concepts by obliterating the legitimate distinctions between them. It’s just like the ridiculous nonsense you’ve peddled here before that “capitalism is whatever capitalists do” and “a capitalist is anyone who controls capital”. This means that Stalin — who did indeed “control capital” — qualifies as a capitalist and his acts of mass murder and the looting of millions of individual’s property become acts of “capitalism”.

Defining a concept so that it can mean one thing and can also mean the opposite thing is to give it no specific meaning at all; such a definition renders the concept meaningless and useless. This approach to definitions is errant nonsense that only sows epistemological confusion and destroys the utility of concepts.

Anonymous September 2, 2009 at 12:28 pm

In addition, Teddy was a murdering, lying, cheating, communist scumbag.

I Love All Dems & Repubs September 17, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Wow! Attack Ted Kennedy/messanger and not the issue of health care reform. Health Care reform is not just about the rising number of Americans who do not have or cannot afford health care insurance. Health Care reform is also needed for stabilizing the American economy. Attack all of those who are for health care reform if you so desire, but the fact remains that not only has the number of uninsured tripled over the last two decades the cost has increased over 300% as well and continues to increase at the same rate. Our government will be completely broke financial in a decade or two if nothing is done. Just like medical care is responsible for 60% of all bankrupcy in America, it will eventually, if nothing is done, bankrupt America. I am a disable retired vet and now a federal employee. The services that I recieve from the VA hospital, military hospital, and from federal employee insurance is awesome and I hope that all legal American can have the same options as I do. I do not mind sharing with all.

I Love All Dems & Repubs September 17, 2009 at 2:26 pm

There is a difference in the stimulus provided by the Bush administration than the stimulus provided by the Obama administration. Bush’s stimulus provided bailouts for failing banks and creditors. Obama’s stimulus provided funding to states and other federal programs to keep teachers in classrooms, police on the streets, and students in college. The teachers, police, and other state employees who were able to keep their job due to the stimulus funds from President Obama will be paying taxes on their income. Some of the financial institutions who received federal bailouts have no obligation to repay.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 12:34 am

“he powers of the Senate are the problem”

True.

dano August 31, 2009 at 12:52 am

The late Tip O’Neil called every one of Reagan’s proposed budgets “dead on arrival.” the Democratic lead House would never pass his budget.

MWG August 31, 2009 at 12:55 am

“So put away your piss ant excuse and man-up and take responsibility for reagans excesses.

All you guys have is excuses and denial… no facts”

Wow, I must have struck a nerve… Anyway, how are Reagans “excesses” my responsibility? As far as “excuses and denial” with “no facts”… I’ll refer you to viking’s post below.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 1:16 am

How would you fix the powers of the senate?

I would make it illegal to accept more then $1000 dollars from any person in any year and illegal to accept any money from any non -person.

I would deny corporations rights of personhood and I would make a law that states money
is not equivalent to free speech. Money spent for any political quid pro quo should be strcitly
forbidden.

I would require all holders of higher office to record and make publically available every meeting they have while serving the public interest.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 1:30 am

Stupid little pet teacup Chihuahua,

You can’t fix the Senate, or the House of representatives.

Art 1, Sec 5, para 2, says they can do what they damn well please, and they certainly have shown that they know that and have acted on it.

222 years of fraud.

LOL, and they laugh at you and the rest every single day.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 1:38 am

How would you prevent me spending $1000 on behalf of some Senator or some cause he famously champions? The Senator needn’t accept any money from me for this purpose.I would make it illegal for wealthy proprietors to organize vast resources for their personal consumption by imposing a progressive consumption tax with steeply progressive rates, even approaching 100%. The same tax would also limit Senators’ authority to organize vast resource for their political benefit.Denying “personhood” to corporations doesn’t amount to much, since legislators may grant corporations the same status without the same name.

Speech is costly as a matter of fact, if you want to be heard by many people anyway. Outlawing facts can have unintended consequences.I would define any political expenditure as “consumption” rather than “investment” under a progressive consumption tax, so if you want to spend ten million dollars of your own money on a political campaign in a given year, that’s fine, but you’ll pay fifty or a hundred million dollars in taxes for the privilege. If you spend only a million, you might pay only a million in taxes for the privilege. If you spend only a thousand, you might pay nothing.I have no problem with the transparency requirement. Let’s follow Senators with cameras 24 hours a day. Maybe they get a few hours in a room alone with a spouse off camera at night, but that’s it. Suits me fine.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 7:37 am

“no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”

–Article V, CotUS

The senate is the one part of the CotUS that is amendment-proof. If you want a change, you have to convince a state to forgo a senator, or you have to persuade senators to change their rules. Either that, or start a revolution, overturn the CotUS, and start over.

MWG August 31, 2009 at 5:34 am

“Anyway. When does the fiscal year end and start? Who’s budget is this current one officially?”

The trillion$ stimulus SIGNED by Obama is part of Bush’s budget???

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 7:31 am

Why do you do this to yourself? President Obama has already signed a spending bill. We know how much he is spending. That’s why Obama’s budget has been the daily subject of news TV and papers for weeks. Not even hard line Obama partisans would think of denying it.

Are you okay? It is unfathomable to me why you would act so absurdly ignorant. Do you think it is amusing in some self-deprecating way? How does it serve you?

Peter .B.P. August 31, 2009 at 9:17 am

>viking,

>Glad to hear you don’t hate me. I’ll sleep better tonight. But don’t pity me either I’m a very happy person.

Evidently not happy enough that you abstained from charging in, claiming all sorts of absurdities about the readership of this blog.

>Anyway. When does the fiscal year end and start? Who’s budget is this current one officially?

Give it up, you can’t smear Obama’s deficits on someone else.

>Oh and during the Clinton years did he ever have a real surplus and if not who changed the accounting rules to allow Clinton to make such claims of surplus?

And now Clinton is being brought in on the field, when Obama can’t be defended anymore…

Peter .B.P. August 31, 2009 at 11:30 am

“Then you said, “….however the deficit was being reduced, albeit slowly.” Really??/ Going from a surplus of ~$150 billion in his (Bush’s) first year to a maximum deficit off $450 billion in 2008 is “reduced slowly”?”

This is so dumb I’m not sure I’d bother refuting it, but since you are so busy denying that the deficit in Obama’s first year is not his fault, I’m sure you’d hold the same thing to be true for Bush… or?

>But you were right when you said, “That would make YOU look foolish.” and “Facts speak for themselves…”"

Troll or political fanboy?

muirgeo August 31, 2009 at 12:52 pm

No Peter, I said DEBT to GDP not debt to GDP.

should be :

No Peter, I said DEBT to GDP not deficit to GDP.

muirgeo August 31, 2009 at 1:02 pm

“….you are so busy denying that the deficit in Obama’s first year is not his fault, I’m sure you’d hold the same thing to be true for Bush… or?”

Yeah I would argue the surplus Bush inherited was NOT his “fault”. That he turned it into a $450 billion dollar deficit was his fault.

And that you think going from a surplus of $150 billion to a deficit of $450 billion is “…was being reduced, albeit slowly.” is probably a fault of some ones mother not taking her prenatal vitamins.

Justin P September 1, 2009 at 1:52 am

My money is on fanboy.

Peter .B.P. August 31, 2009 at 1:10 pm

If you weren’t so busy raging, you’d consider something called a trendline, instead of cherry picking the time extremes of the period.

Naive interpretation of data can always be used to support dodgy positions, which is exactly what you are doing because it goes against your preferred narrative.

Sam Grove August 31, 2009 at 6:21 pm

When the gov’t reports a surplus do you think it’s a real surplus?
What does it mean, really, when the debt and liabilities are amount to trillions?

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Why would you compare debt to GDP? GDP is an annual figure (a “flow”), while debt is a figure integrated over many years (a “stock”). Moreover, because debt responds more slowly than deficit to changes in fiscal policy, changes in debt to GDP ratio is likely to be driven mostly by changes in GDP (i.e., due to booms and recessions). I don’t see how it tells us much about fiscal policy one way or the other.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 2:13 pm

A better measure would indeed be debt plus expected future interest payments over future GDP, discounting all future figures – I think the advantage of using debt to GDP is simply that it avoids disputes over what future GDP will be. Either way, the point of the measure is that incorporates ability to pay back the debt, which is far more informative than a simple debt or deficit figure.

But I would disagree that it doesn’t tell us much about fiscal policy. When does the debt to GDP ratio grow? When the deficit outpaces GDP growth. When does it shrink? When GDP growth outpaces the deficit. I don’t see why it’s any more sensitive to GDP growth than the deficit – it’s the balance between the two that determines the change in debt to GDP, right? They should have equal impact.

muirgeo August 31, 2009 at 2:45 pm

I think because you can improve your deficit to GDP even with a shrinking GDP. Likewise you can increase GDP and still add massively to the debt. Also deficit spending is positivlly reflected in annual GDP numbers.

Looking at debt to GDP smooths out these factors.

Would you be more concerned that you spent $11,000 thousand dollars last month when you only made $10,000. Or that you increased your toatl debt now to $5,000 dollars?

Also total debt is what we pay interest on… no small part of the yearly budget/ deficit.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 2:16 pm

That’s interesting, I never realized that.

Although do they interpret this to mean that “without it’s consent” can’t be amended? Not that I would want to change the Senate, I’m just curious about how this is interpreted in actuality.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Dan,

If the two (debt and deficit) have equal impact, then you should get the same answer no matter which one you use. The fact that muirgeo’s argument depends on quibbling over which measure to use (or so I gather; I tend to skim over muirgeo’s flame wars with other posters) should give you pause on that basis alone. Where the two are in conflict, using the total debt gives a lot of weight to past deficits and comparatively little weight to current deficits. However, current fiscal policy has zero influence on past deficits and a lot of influence on present deficits. Therefore, when judging current fiscal policy it makes more sense to use the figure that is more directly influenced by the policy you are trying to judge.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Sorry to be unclear – I was responding to your point that debt to GDP is pointless. There’s definitely a meaningful difference between talking about the debt and the deficit.

Total debt does privelege past deficits – I don’t think the point is to blame Reagan for the debt. You blame Reagan for Reagan’s deficits (and same with Obama). BUT when you’re evaluating each of their deficits, the debt burden they’re carrying is an important factor. I think a lot of Obama’s deficits are justified. I have no problem with running deficits or even large one’s inherently – it depends on why you’re doing it. HOWEVER, Obama is hamstrung by the current debt burden, which could have been lower if past policies were different. I don’t blame Obama for this debt any more than I blame Reagan for the debts that were there when he came into office – but I sure as hell take them into account when evaluating their respective fiscal policies. And I think the best debt burden measure we have is debt to GDP, despite the flaws you point out. I’m just saying that the one flaw you mention – that debt/GDP is more sensitive to changes in GDP – doesn’t make much sense to me.

muirgeo August 31, 2009 at 3:07 pm

WOW …LOL. I’ll take that as an “UNCLE”.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Muirgeo,

Your first paragraph seems to argue more for not putting GDP in the denominator of the fraction than it does for using debt instead of deficit in the numerator.

In your second paragraph you say that using debt rather than deficit as an indicator of fiscal health you smooth out variations, but my point is that that smoothing masks the effects of recent policy. If I have a large debt, but I cut my budget deficit to zero, then my debt to income ratio is unchanged, but my fiscal position has improved drastically.

To answer your question, when setting my personal spending policies I look at my budget surplus or deficit (hopefully the former), rather than my total debt. My debt is dominated by my mortgage, which is basically irrelevant in my month-to-month planning (payments on it do, however, show up as a line in my monthly budget). This answers your last paragraph as well. Total debt controls the amount of interest we pay, but that is already captured in the deficit because interest and the current portion of the debt (i.e., the notes that are actually being redeemed this fiscal year) are included in the budget.

To put it another way, if your budget is in balance (i.e., no deficit), it doesn’t matter how big your debt is; all other things being equal (i.e., stable income, stable debt service costs) you will be fine into the indefinite future. Conversely, if you are running a deficit, then all other things being equal you have a problem with your fiscal policy, even if your debt is for the moment quite low.

How these conclusions change if all other things are not equal (e.g., if you expect your income to grow at 2-3% per year) is left as an exercise for the reader. In any case, it’s the deficit that tells you whether or not you are spending too much for your income.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Dan,

Since the passage in question is in Article V (which deals specifically with the amendment process), I would interpret it as being beyond the normal amendment process. That is, it places a limit on what you can do with amendments that cannot be amended away. If it were otherwise, then what would be the point of the clause in the first place?

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 3:27 pm

That makes perfect sense to me – I was just curious. When I happen to refer back to the Constitution for one reason or another, it’s usually not to article 5 :)

Also note the opening line for that sentence: “Provided that no Amendment which may be made…” first talks about doing anything with the slave trade, then the passage you cite.

Thanks! Very interesting.

matt August 31, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Well, at least tell us the maximum amount of dollars that we can have–and pass to our families. It would also be helpful to know where one’s wealth upon their death would go if he/she was not allowed by you (et al) to do with it as they please.

Oh, and if the country you’re talking about the US, I’m afraid the “revolt” was not against inherited wealth.

MWG August 31, 2009 at 4:22 pm

“This country was founded as a revolt against inherited wealth.”

Comments like this just make you look dumb.

Peter .B.P. August 31, 2009 at 3:43 pm

No idea what that means, but if you can’t make proper arguments when you criticize something, you’ll do better not wasting your own and our time by posting here.

Unless you intended it as comedic relief?

John Dewey August 31, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Martin Brock: “There is no inevitable “next step” following an enactment of title expiration”

I wasn’t referring to any comment you made abourt “title expiration”. I was referring to your argument agains inherited wealth in general.

Martin Brock: “Conflating a fashion model’s beauty with a forcible claim of mastery over some parcel of land is your self-deception, not mine.”

I did no such thing, Martin. I asked if the wealth acquired as a result of inherited beauty should be treated the same as wealth acquired as a result of one’s parentage. And you referred to wealth in general, not to a parcel of land, in your original statement.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 10:39 pm

What right does the state have to determine how the assets of a man may be distributed?

It has more guns than everyone else. Might makes rights.

You are conflating the power to do something with the right to do it. Any armed robber has the power to relieve you off your wallet. That doesn’t give him the right to do so.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 6:13 pm

If Thomas Paine is dumb then call me dumb too.

“In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity . . . [Government must] create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.”

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 8:20 pm

I referred to “inherited wealth” initially, but in the post to which you responded, I refer to “hereditary title” and “title holders”. A model’s beauty is “wealth”, but we don’t ordinarily say that she “holds the title to it”. This description is accurate enough, but it’s not common.Regardless, a fashion model fundamentally cannot assign the title to her beauty to someone else after she dies, because the beauty dies with her. She can assign title to pictures of herself, until the copyright expires, but that’s a separate issue that I’m willing to address. I’m not willing to address nonsense about taxing away a woman’s beauty or an athlete’s skill or the thoughts of a genius.

I asked if the wealth acquired as a result of inherited beauty should be treated the same as wealth acquired as a result of one’s parentage.

Fine then. It shouldn’t be, because it can’t be and because taxing away someone’s beauty offends personal liberty. Entitlement to govern a parcel of land is not simply a matter of personal liberty. A parcel of land I’m entitled to govern is not any part of my person. Conflating the two is nonsense.You might argue in Lockean terms that a peasant’s homestead, the land he directly works himself, ought to be his property and that his sons working the same land ought to inherit the title for the same reason, but we certainly aren’t discussing a peasant’s homestead in Kennedy’s case. For all I know, Kennedy’s trust is full of Treasury securities, pure entitlement to tax revenue. No, I do not believe that people have an inalienable right to pass their heirs a pile of entitlements to tax revenue.Inherited wealth (in the ordinary sense of the term) is not acquired simply as a result of parentage. “Hereditary title” has nothing necessarily to do with genetic relationships. The term refers to a titleholder’s right to choose his successor. Choosing children is only customary. I’ve inherited property from someone unrelated to me myself.

MWG August 31, 2009 at 10:05 pm

muir, you idiot, what the hell does that quote have to do with the reasons behind the revolutionary war…. a war fought, not against “inherited wealth”, but against TAXATION without representation. If it had anything to do with inheritance it was in terms of inherited POWER… the kind of power that comes from tyrannical government, not from parents giving passing wealth onto their kids.

Why do we have to spell things out for you? I come to the Cafe for education… Why are you here?

Justin P September 1, 2009 at 2:01 am

He doesn’t deserve any respectful silence.

Jake S. September 1, 2009 at 5:49 am

For whatever it may or may not be worth, when I criticized Reagan’s weaknesses after his death (as I had done during his life), only the hardest of the hardcore Reagan worshipers suggested [that] what I was doing might be in poor taste.

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 4:56 pm

A “respectful silence” while many voices are praising a despicable person is absolutely the worst respanse. It is not just appropriate, but necessary and important to speak the truth, especially now. Using the phrase “his weakness” is an insult to anybody who values freedom and justice. Leaving someone to drown is not a “weakness” Using your position and family power to avoid the consequences of your actions is not a “weakness” Do you know anybody evil enough to send a young woman to her death and not make even the slightest attempt to save her???!?!??! And you suggest criticism is in poor taste????!!!?!?!?

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 10:04 am

No. I’m defining “right to do something” consistently. An armed robber has no right to take my wallet forcibly, because he is not the established monopoly of force; however, the established monopoly does have rights to my wallet, and it effectively demonstrates the rights every April 15th.Does the state differ from a robber otherwise? I don’t see many differences. It seems to be only the largest, strongest robber, imposing its iron will to eliminate the competition.So the just man is a thief, and property is theft. This irony of proprietarianism is not anti-liberty or even anti-property. It’s just the way things really are, for better or for worse.

And the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the Torah itself. Same idea.

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