Thursday, February 5, 2009

How to Kill a Country

One thing I try to avoid is duplicating other blogs on any given day. But I was over reading Beth's latest post (which she reprinted from yet somewhere else), as well as other posts of a similar, and my comment on her post came to my mind as something I had been considering for a post earlier this week. So let me just start with a description:

The Superpower had grown from a agrarian society to superpower status over only a short time. And with a victory in WWII, they carved up Europe with their soon-to be enemies. There was only one problem which, looking back, was plainly obvious. Government was spending far too much money and controlling the means of production. This meant that the will of the politicians, not the market, dictated what would be produced and what wages and salaries would be paid. And the people were losing any motivation because they could look at other countries who could buy whatever they wanted without concern for their government watching them and deciding what they needed. And the government was competing with its enemy and tried to outspend them. And in doing so, with an apathetic populace, their economy collapsed. Thus was the financial death of the USSR.

Now I know you know that I knew that you knew that I was going to be trying to pull a fast one and make you think I was talking about the good ol' US of A. And our economy is not the all-out command economy of the aforementioned communist country that was a third world country except for its military might.

But let's take my example apart.

Government was spending far too much money and controlling the means of production. This meant that the will of the politicians, not the market, dictated what would be produced and what wages and salaries would be paid.

One of the topics today was a discussion on capping CEO compensation. That, with the minimum wage, is politicians dictating wages and salaries.

As for controlling the means of production, I'll look at the big three automakers. As part of their bailout, the must submit their plans to the central authority, I mean Congress, for approval. And I believe there were some plans to tie this to producing cars that Washington wants, which was part of the push for the CAFE standards (which meant the automakers had to produce crap nobody wanted to make SUVs (which meant they were less profitable (and more susceptible to a recession)).

And the people were losing any motivation because they could look at other countries who could buy whatever they wanted without concern for their government watching them and deciding what they needed.

The biggest difference here is that we started with freedom and have seen it taken away incrementally. The cigarette industry is a perfect example of this.

It started out where smoking was the norm. Finally, the science came in and it was found that sucking in smoke was bad for you (to anyone who's stuck their head over a campfire this was fucking obvious). And had a sweeping ban come down, there would have been a mess created (prohibition, anyone?). So they started with warnings on the cigarettes, which was fine because the tobacco companies had lied (fair enough). And ads on TV were banned (lest kids see ads for all the cigarettes their parents smoked). And an assload of PSAs were run (because it's the government's role to indoctrinate educate us). And of course smoking was banned in public places (except the offices of the people making these laws). After a while, people began to move away from smoking (which was a good thing) and private businesses started catering to the non-smoker.

And government, seeing the revenues from the cancer sticks dropping, raised those taxes to soak the people still smoking.

Then people began suing for their freshly-burgeoning lung cancer, despite having been told smoking would kill you for 20 years. And because we had been taught that smoking was bad and that Big Tobacco was evil (for the same 20 years), the people decided to punish the tobacco companies for their sins of 20 years ago. And they enacted laws to ban smoking further, to the point where you couldn't smoke in any building (even private businesses) because it was what was best for us. And there are laws in places being considered to protect people from the smell of cigarettes in adjoining apartments (which I actually have in my bathroom).

And all the while, the right to choose something is slowly stripped away.

And while cigarettes are an easy target (thanks to the stupidity of the tobacco companies in the 70's), there are plenty of things that the government now says is bad for us. Trans-fat. Fast food. SUVs. Handheld cell phones. Butter. Alcohol. Guns. Fossil fuels. Bad words in songs and on TV. Etc. And for each item (and those are just things that I came up with off the top of my head) there are laws limiting, regulating, and slowly increasing the cost while decreasing the supply of them to serve someone's political agenda. And there are arguments in favor of regulation and control, which are perfectly reasonable in some cases.

But laws that do not protect the rights of one individual from infringement by another only take away rights from us all.

In essence, a government derives its power from the consent of the governed. And over our history, we have consented to more and more government control of our lives. For those of you who have not lost the freedom to choose what you wish, what will be the point at which you stand with the people who are?

We must reach that point soon lest we lose that which made us great.

And until we reach that point, hide the guns under the floorboards, fill your mattress with the cash, and wait for the day our glorious leaders are destroyed by their attempt to compete with the capitalist pigs.

35 comments:

Pasadena Closet Conservative said...

Couldn't have said it better myself.

TAO said...

Yep, centralized control and military spending killed Soviet Russia and it will be our death also....

Of course you did not mention military spending....

Afghanistan was Soviet Russia's last stand....

Its also going to be ours.

Toad734 said...

The federal government is not capping CEO compensation. They are capping CEO compensation for companies with CEOs who don't know their ass from a hole in the ground, who don't deserve to make even $500000 per year and who has begged for government money. This money can then be used to save lower level workers jobs and jobs are what we need now, we don't need one guy making 4 million a year when he is losing his company money. If you are taking money from the feds, who's your daddy? If you are going to take money from the king you should expect to live by the kings rules. Cry me a river for those guys. If you don't like minimum wage laws perhaps you would like to send your children to China to work for what they are worth??

As for the cigarettes, its kind of the same with the bailout wages, if you are producing a product which raises the cost of health care for everyone in the country and the Federal government is the largest insurer in the country, expect that you are going to be a target and they are going to get their money back they are spending on keeping people alive who have no insurance, who are dying because of the product you made. Whether this is tobacco or transfats or partially hydrogenated bullshit. You reap what you sow.

The Soviet Union collapsed becasue they were too expansive, took over too many other countries and spent way too much on their military. Sound familiar?

So am I hearing you right that you want your kids to go to walmart with you and you want other people to have the right to blow cancerous smoke in their faces all day? You think that is a god given right, smoking and forcing other people to breathe it? I assume then it is ok for me to go anywhere i want and start burning my ass hairs if thats what i feel like doing and everyone else just has to deal with it or leave??

How many SUVs does Opal, Ferrari, Porsche (1?), Cooper, make?? And how many fuel efficient cars does Opal, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, VW make?? These are all profitable companies, some who make SUVs some who make fuel efficient cars and some who make recession proof cars. No one forced GM and Chrysler into a collapse; they did it themselves by not making shit anyone wanted, by ignoring all our free trade laws and by making gas guzzling cars in the middle of a war against one of the largest oil producing nations in the world and paying their workers, and Corporate officers too much. The government has done nothing to hurt GM, they are merely asking them to do what Honda and Toyota have been doing successfully for years. If those guys can do it, the American companies can do it to. They are not doing it to them they are doing it for them. And if you don't want the government in your business, don't ask for government hand outs.

You are reaching.

TAO said...

Ah Patrick,

Lets define the last time we were great and or what made us great.

I have a sneaky suspicion that if we can pinpoint both we might just be able to clearly see what the problem really is....

Arthurstone said...

As long as 'real Americans' continue to ignore the costs of maintaining empire it's going to be difficult indeed to make the decisions we need to make as a nation. The US essentially spends as much as the rest of the world combined on 'defense' and still it isn't enough for the far too influential NPAC faction.

We can't spend our way to security and we can't simply kill all our 'enemies'.

dmarks said...

Easy enough. Since there is no empire, the cost of maintaining it is zero.

Toad734 said...

Dmarks:

So you are saying the cost of Iraq hasn't been 600 billion and it has cost $0?? Does that also mean none of our soldiers have been killed?

Arthurstone said...

Heh. Heh.

Denial is a peculiar phenomenon.


http://www.alternet.org/story/47998

Toad734 said...

Arthur:

Ya, and that; my point exactly.

Leave it to the conservatives to blame their high taxes on welfare moms and not welfare companies, to blame the US budget shortfalls on high taxes not our military budget, to blame expensive consumer goods on CEOs not being paid enough, to blame Iraq for us having to invade them, to blame high gas prices on taxes but not the greed of the wealthiest company in history or the war, to blame violence and terrorism on not enough violence, terrorism and torture, to blame workers for their jobs being moved over seas, to blame gun and gang violence on there not being enough guns as opposed to too many, to call it capitalism when a rich guy makes more money but socialism when a poor person makes money, etc. I really just don't get it. Is it that they really can't figure it out, just don't know the truth, don't want to see the truth or don't care?

Patrick M said...

Tao, Arthur, Toad: I'm going to shock the shit out of you by agreeing, at least in part, about our military expenditures.

One of the long-term necessities of scaling back is to scale back our Cold War presence in the world. As there is no country that can compete with us militarily (except maybe China), our long-term focus should be on protecting our own ass, not the rest of the damned world.

That's not to say we pull out immediately everywhere or stop hunting terrorists. But it does mean figuring out how to do what we need to do with less. We've proven we can turn the country into a war machine when we need to (WWII), so I'm comfortable with looking to a more defensive posture.

Now to the specifics:

Toad: The federal government is not capping CEO compensation.

Yet. It's the precedence that it sets that is dangerous. Just as the minimum wage started out with the idea of protecting workers from exploitation, it is now creating job loss each time it goes up, and the latest jump made my raise irrelevant, as it went up more than my raise here, but not up to my current pay rate. The end game is a government definition of the value of each job, with can then be adjusted for political reasons. Do you want the government to decide what you may make?

As for the tobacco reference, I forgot to add in the government takeover of health care, which gave them another tentacle to choke off an industry.

And I never said you had to be forced to suck smoke. But when a private business is denied the right to choose whether they want smoke and employees are forced to stand in unsheltered locations in the middle of winter when they had a filtered smoking room before (which is what the Ohio law did), then it's no longer about protecting the rights of one but oppressing the rights of someone else. And every right has a responsibility (as in if you get lung cancer now, tough shit).

As for the Soviets, there is a parallel in our global military presence (see above), though with different motivations on the parts of the two countries.

As for the automakers, their problems are multitudinous. But they did make cars that people wanted (SUVs). But things like the CAFE standards required them to make cars that they didn't make well, and that people looked to other companies for. and now, because of their stupidity and the need to bail out the unions (who also helped make the mess), they are being subjected to the will of politicians, which means decisions are made on political interest, not business sense.

You are reaching.

If I'm reaching, it's for a spoon so you can eat my ass. :)

Arthur and Toad: I think the point Dmarks was making was that we're not building an empire, despite your wacky links, Arthur. I covered that above, but I'll reiterate. Most of our current footing is the remnants of our Cold War strategy. And perhaps it is time to change that and let the nations we were protecting start protecting themselves.

Patrick M said...

And Toad, you're the one who brought up the blame game. More on that later.

Arthurstone said...

Not whacky Patrick.

While many cold-war era bases are closing new one are appearing in places such as Hungary, Bosnia, Romania, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. etc.

This is interesting:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_military_bases

dmarks said...

Toad: There is no empire. That is why there is no cost of an empire. It's like speaking of the drag that the moonbase has on our national budget. It's not there, no cost.

And yes, the numerous cease-fire violations and aggressive actions by Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq did force the invasion. And, as a man once said, "Saddam Hussein's regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies"

Patrick said: "And perhaps it is time to change that and let the nations we were protecting start protecting themselves."

Yes, perhaps it is time to look at this with an open mind, without clouding matters by underplaying actual global threats and by mucking things up with false perceptions of an American "empire" past and present.

Arthurstone said...

dmarks typed:

And yes, the numerous cease-fire violations and aggressive actions by Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq did force the invasion. And, as a man once said, "Saddam Hussein's regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies"


This is difficult for some I know but by the time the invasion was launched the intell had been cooked and misrepresented and the folks who ordered this adventure up knew it.

dmarks said...

There was no adventure. And there are plenty of quotes about the actual problems created by Saddam Hussein from back during the Clinton years also.

Toad734 said...

DMarks: So what is it when we have a military and economic presence ini more countries than Rome ever did, the Soviet Union ever did and even Britain? When you overthrow two countries in one decade spending billions of dollars? You are saying that cost nothing?

Patrick:

I don't think any of us are saying we stop hunting down terrorists, thats why we were against Iraq; we wanted to persue the terrorists where they were in Afghanistan, not create an entirely new set of terrorists in Iraq.

Smoking:
Those employees aren't forced to stand outside in winter; they can choose not to smoke just as I do and I also choose not to burn my ass hairs. Them giving themselves cancer is fine but them giving it to me or your kids isn't. If you find a business where everyone there smokes and no UPS delivery guys or anyone else ever visits that office, then I would say, sure they are allowed to smoke. Otherwise you have your car, your home, your yard, the woods, etc. It's kind of like praying, there are churches, homes, bedsides, dinner tables and all kinds of places where one can pray so don't interrupt the football game or the school day to force it down everyone elses throat. There is a time and place for everything.

And exactly how many people were buying SUVs this summer? And how hard is it to put out a hybrid SUV, ever hear of the Ford Escape? Again, Fiat does not make an SUV and they can stay profitable, Honda makes things other than SUVs and has no problem selling them and remaining profitable. The federal government never told Detroit they couldn't build SUVs. They only told them that if they want my money they have to play by our rules. Same with the CEO pay; if you are a good CEO and can live without government welfare, pay yourself what you want otherwise, find another job if you don't like the 500k salary. I like how you guys want welfare recipients (the black and redneck ones, not the corporate ones) to have to take a piss test and have to be looking for jobs in order to receive food stamps but there should be absolutely no restraints on the money we give to rich white people. Its bullshit.

Arthurstone said...

The Clinton years ended long before the invasion of Iraq you might recall. In the interim inspections were working.

But the past administration cooked the intell books to support its preferred outcome. They lied and exaggerated and manufactured a crisis which didn't exist. There was no eminent threat from Iraq and the two fundamental assertions made for invasion were lies.

1.) Iraq had WMDs and was poised to use them.

2.) Al-Qaeda was active with and for Iraq.

Neither true.

Toad734 said...

Arthur:

Of course the inspections were working, there were no WMDs; proof the Clinton strategy worked.

dmarks said...

Toad: "and all kinds of places where one can pray so don't interrupt the football game or the school day to force it down everyone elses throat"

Free speech is not forcing something down someone's throat. Learn some tolerance: if someone says something you don't like, ignore it. I guess I'm just not so high-strung. I've heard prayers from dozens of religions (mostly non-Christian, I add) and none have ever really offended or angered me.

Patrick M said...

Toad: On Iraq, I understand your point. And we need to be a lot more selective next time, having seen how long it took an how much it cost. At least it didn't go the way of Vietnam. We learned some. We need to learn more.

And on both smoking and SUVs, the problem is that the government is forcing a group of people to change their behavior based on someone else's political agenda, and not to protect the rights of another person. It would be the same as if Chicago and the suburbs decided to ban Indain food for some damned reason and you had to drive to South Bend or something to get your fix of Murg Makhani. To satisfy someone's political agenda, you have to be inconvenienced. Tobacco has crossed that line. Cars are crossing that line now. And just because it's something you perceive (and really is, in tobacco's case) is bad does not change the fact.

Toad734 said...

But the difference here is that the Indian Restaurants aren't asking for the Cities money in order to stay afloat and they don't cause cancer in either the people who eat it or people who hang around people who eat it and therefore don't raise the cost of health care...toilet paper maybe, but not health care.

And we would think it was ridiculous that an Indian restaurant would ask for the assistance from the city when they are essentially making the same food Pakistani restaurants are making who don't need a bail out.

But again, no one forced GM to make anything, they simply set fuel efficiency standards and Detroit hasn't figured out how to make a car people wanted that got more than 4 miles per gallon.

Toad734 said...

Dmarks:

I am tolerant, pray on your own time all you want. Just as you wouldn't want to sit through a Hindu, then Muslim, then Jewish prayer before a football game, I don't want to sit through a Christian prayer.

Patrick M said...

Tooad: You're making excuses why it's different. You haven't proved that it's any different than the Indian food in the sense that the laws are being used to target someone for political reasons. Not to protect the rights of another from encroachment.

A private business cannot decide to have smoking because of a law. Technically, if you have a business of your own, and everybody there smokes, you are still breaking the law if you smoke in the building. Period.

That's the problem with a law. it has consequences that most people don't think through and it goes too far.

dmarks said...

Toad: "Just as you wouldn't want to sit through a Hindu, then Muslim, then Jewish prayer before a football game"

Actually, I would not mind any of those at all.

Arthurstone said...

PatrickM typed re: smoking

'Not to protect the rights of another from encroachment.'

Not quite.

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/ETS

He added:

'Technically, if you have a business of your own, and everybody there smokes, you are still breaking the law if you smoke in the building. Period.'

Exactly. And a good thing too.

dmarks said...

Arthurstone: I'm not seeing the problem with Patrick's worst case scenario, either.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Leave it to the conservatives to blame their high taxes on welfare moms and not welfare companies, to blame the US budget shortfalls on high taxes not our military budget, to blame expensive consumer goods on CEOs not being paid enough, to blame Iraq for us having to invade them, to blame high gas prices on taxes but not the greed of the wealthiest company in history or the war, to blame violence and terrorism on not enough violence, terrorism and torture, to blame workers for their jobs being moved over seas, to blame gun and gang violence on there not being enough guns as opposed to too many, to call it capitalism when a rich guy makes more money but socialism when a poor person makes money, etc. I really just don't get it. Is it that they really can't figure it out, just don't know the truth, don't want to see the truth or don't care?

OMG... I think I love you.

And for all the pro-capitalists: are you aware that unless you own your own business, you're not a capitalist at all?

All your 'pro-capitalism' talk is just in support of someone, who happens to be a capitalist, in their exploitation of you, and as such, self-defeating.

dmarks said...

About "but socialism when a poor person makes money, etc"

It's socialism when the government elites make the money.


And SDD, the free exchange of goods and services is not "exploitation".

The pro-capitalist talk is just support of one's own economic rights, and is not support of another and is not self-defeating.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Unless you own the means of production, ie, own your own business or are otherwise self-employed, you are not a capitalist, by definition.

You support the capitalist who exploits your labour.

dmarks said...

The problem word is "exploit". Much use of the word does not fit here. But there is a definition which does fit: "to make productive use of". What actually happens is that people exchange goods and services to their mutual benefit.

The capitalist "makes productive use of" the labor they pay for, while the person being paid "makes productive use of" the money they have received in fair exchange for their work and time. Each supports the other to mutual benefit.

Toad734 said...

Dmarks: I would, if I wanted to hear prayers I would go to a church. You wouldn't be happy if you went to a Loretta Lynn concert and 50 cent performed instead. I don't want go think I am going to a football game when in reality it's some prayer session.

I don't play football in your church so don't play church at my football game.

dmarks said...

"I don't play football in your church so don't play church at my football game."

I guess you'll have to ban the marching band too. Oh yes, and the girls with short skirts.

After all, like it's not a prayer session, it's not a Sousa concert or a girly show either.

I'm sure that there have to be some intolerant folks in the stands who can't stand either, and also aren't mature enough not to have a fit over it.

Toad734 said...

But the game isn't stopped for any of the things you mentioned. Yes the game is stopped when marching bands play but they aren't why the game stopped. If those people at the Texas football games werent praying, the game could start earlier. If the kids in school weren't praying, class could start sooner. Again, there is a time and place for everything; your bedside, your dinner table and your church is where you should be praying.

dmarks said...

If you are that impatient over a brief prayer, what about all the lagging minutes between plays in football games? Do you shout for the refs to stop bickering and get back to game play?

Arthurstone said...

I think the game would be a lot more interesting if the clock ran continuously and substitutions disallowed. Substitutions only on change of possession. And if one of the fat guy tips over, shove off to the side and play short handed.

Imagine how much fun it would be to watch guys run up and down the field instead of fat guys bumping into one another in the middle of the field for a few seconds followed by a couple of minutes of standing around waiting for the next play to be broadcast from one of the sixty-odd coaches each team requires.

Just a suggestion.