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« George Will and another world salvation attempted | Main | Bernie Sanders: the political phenomenon of 2016 »

May 31, 2015



"The very essence of traditional philosophical conservatism is to preserve in society that which has traditionally worked; to spurn intemperate change and impetuous revampings in favor of upholding the established order while also allowing for inevitable yet incremental changes to that order, since society itself is a naturally evolving — i.e., changing — organism."

In other words:

"Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has brought something new to the wheighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for without progress there will be stagnation and decay. There again, progress for progress's sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognised as errors of judgement. Meanwhile, some old habits will be retained, and rightly so, whereas others, outmoded and outworn, must be abandoned. Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited." -- Delores Umbridge


It's time for progressives to live up to their name and embrace change. There was a time when "liberal" essentially meant anti- or small government. Of course the tradition grew out of a time when "government" usually meant "monarchy" and agriculture, which depended on land ownership, was the most common way of life. Since then liberals have generally recognized that a democratic republic can be used by an informed citizenry as a tool for protecting and improving humanity. Conservatism has also changed since Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine exchanged ideas. Let's recognize modern conservatism for what it is rather than calling it pseudo-conservatism or anything of the like.

First, since after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had personally seen war for the horror it is, it is a philosophy of war mongering. Whether it be to vainly maintain the protection once afforded by the width of two oceans or simply for business boosterism does not matter. Richard Nixon sabotaged peace talks with Vietnam and turned the war into an unmitigated disaster that made Americans wary of poorly defined foreign military entanglements for a generation. Conservatives have been trying to change the public's mind to the merits of military adventurism ever since, even though they've only managed to create another disaster.

Second, it's a philosophy of social irresponsibility. It can take the form of science denial or other anti-intellectual shapes, a mirror image of noblesse oblige that includes trickle-down economics in its various forms, the equation of money and speech, unrestrained dishonesty and propagandizing in political discourse and a preference for allowing vast fortunes to grow infinitely rather than being invested in the foundations of an advancing or even workable social or physical infrastructure.

Thirdly it is profoundly racist. Conservative leaders might blame the tea yahoos, but racism has been inherent to conservatism since it was instrumental in prying the Solid South away from the Democratic Party after its leaders advanced civil rights laws. It currently continues the cause through the shapes of congressional districts, laws meant to restrict the voting rights of minorities, and resistance to immigration reform.

Let's recognize that genuine conservatism no longer honestly represents any high ideals of the past in the least.

Peter G

I'll bet on a sales tax too. But only if they can't find something even more regressive on which they can rely. One quote was certainly enlightening as to their underlying thought processes.
"We hoped they would just be a magic lantern and everybody would react to it,” he said. “But, eh, it’s hard to get a company to uproot their business when they’re established and move to another place just because of this difference in tax policy.” He being Mr Donovan. What reaction did they imagine was going to happen and who did they think was going to react positively and select Kansas as the place to be? Was it going to be service oriented businesses that were going to find a better market or under serviced clientele? Was their existing base of service oriented companies unable to expand to respond to demand? Or were they hoping to somehow draw manufacturing businesses which have fifty better jurisdictions, either foreign or domestic, to choose from? It's Kansas. That wasn't going to happen either.

They are basically creating an excellent place not to be for any reason.


Just prior to his last presidential run Rick Perry cast a spell that conjured trances and supernatural manifestations. Sam Brownback of Kansas was the only other governor involved:

The Raven

Conservatism was never as principled as it claimed, which Corey Robin has written about in *The Reactionary Mind*. As to the subject, what amazes me is that anyone still votes for these asses. The states dominated by the radical right are in very bad shape as a result of radical right policies, and yet no-one votes the radical right out—why is that?

I speculate that in places like Kansas, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma, we are seeing state-level fascism, where a corrupt party wins power on identity politics, and then establishes an authoritarian government. How it ends, given that US states are part of a federal republic, I do not see. Secession seems a strategy unlikely of success, and even the radical states rights agenda of the Roberts Court cannot entirely insulate these states from participation in the republic.

Peter G

I will disagree. What you are seeing is a perfectly rational response of voters who are asked to support government with taxes but are denied the benefits that governments shower on themselves. Ed Shultz might not understand why huge segments of the population are not prepared to demand large tax increases none of which will be used to help them in any way but I do. This does not require that much insight. It is obvious. Even union members don't want to pay more taxes unless they are the direct beneficiaries of those taxes. Did you see any farmers or small business owners or contract workers or non unionized workers at Ed's recall rallies in Wisconsin? What they did, basically, was hold rallies in support of public service employees and their families to have preferential access to everyone's tax dollars. It was about the stupidest damn thing I have ever seen. They deserved to lose and they did.

Anne J

Thank you, Peter. I always appreciate your perspective and how you can put into words things that I can't. I am someone who doesn't want to pay more in taxes because of where the money goes. I don't know how many non-functioning massively expensive fighter jets do we need? If more money were going towards health care, infrastructure, education, scientific research, and all the other things that benefit the many over the few, I'd be glad to pay more in taxes. I think most non-unionized workers would prefer better pay and benefits without having to join a union.


The situation involves more than just state taxes and public employee unions, though that's the political angle Republican governors like to play. Unions have historically set the standards for what all workers are paid and the benefits they receive. Most Republican run states receive more in federal revenues than they pay. States like West Virginia that in 2010 got $2.57 for every dollar sent to Washington and Mississippi which got $2.47 would be something like 3rd world countries within a few years without the support of the rest of the union. Kansas, Wisconsin and Oklahoma all get more back in federal spending than they pay in taxes.

"Red states were more likely to get a bigger cut of federal spending. Of the 22 states that went to McCain in 2008, 86 percent received more federal spending than they paid in taxes in 2010. In contrast, 55 percent of the states that went to Obama received more federal spending than they paid in taxes. Republican states, on average, received $1.46 in federal spending for every tax dollar paid; Democratic states, on average, received $1.16."

Peter G

No one wants to pay more taxes than they have to and voters always calculate what is in it for them. They have a perfect right to do so. I agree with all of your priorities for spending. The devil is in the details. What does additional spending on education mean? Does it mean better pay and benefits for those who labor in higher education? What will that achieve but to make higher education still more expensive and farther beyond the reach of many. Or does it mean subsidizing the education costs of students who are now burdened with incredible debts upon graduation? Which option do you think the educational community prefers? Keeping in mind that they are perfectly willing for both to happen but only as long as they gets theirs first and their own taxes don't go up. Universality is the key.

Peter G

They sure did Bob. And once upon a time there were four well paid private sector union jobs supporting every public sector union job in many jurisdictions. What is the ratio now? That is exactly the cleavage plane that conservatives can and do use to achieve their goals. That and regressive taxes that shift the tax burden down the economic scale. Not college material? Don't have a union job? Then what is your interest in seeing that people who do get things you can't have at your expense? Your only realistic option is to pay the lowest possible taxes. It is not hard to form a plurality from such timber. And it certainly puts Democratic politicians in a jam who dare to consider the plight of Democratic taxpayers who are not part of their better organized factions like public sector unions for, according to many who call themselves progressive, failing to yield to those demands makes you evil.

I look forward to seeing how the Democratic party of New Jersey deals, post Christie, with their terrible fiscal situation and the monstrous unfunded pension liabilities they too have allowed to accrue. Will they raise taxes still further making themselves even more uncompetitive, borrow money at usurious and unsupportable interest rates or confess their sins and admit those obligations to public sector employees aren't going to get paid in full. And in many cases not at all because they know as well as I do that the majority of voters who don't get anything out of that largesse won't hold still for it. It's a pickle.


There's a good case to be made that restoration of liberal policy worked for California, which was also facing a huge deficit:


Sorry, hit the wrong reply. See below.

The Raven

If a majority adopts a greedy focus on personal tax spending, and works to pull down state worker wages, under current economic conditions, the whole state economy suffers. How is that rational? How is it rational to support cuts in education, the sale of state assets, and environmental destruction? The voters are going to live in the results!

This is only rational if goals of identity and small gains in family budgets are to be put ahead of all else, which is to say it is not rational at all, simply greedy.

Employment recovery in all three states is lagging the rest of the USA, and this is most likely down to the state anti-tax anti-spending policies. People who don't have money to spend don't spend it, and so all the businesses those people buy from don't make money and let go workers who also spend less, and employment and production spiral down, down, down.

Indirectly, as well, the right wing policies in these states discourage employers. Who wants to operate a business in a state without a good educational system? Where do employees come from in such a state? How do you keep your best employees from moving on to greener pastures? If the state's environment is trashed who wants to live there anyway?

The corruption and fanaticism of the conservative leadership in such places means that business people are automatically at a disadvantage with respect to the cronies of the political in crowd. If one is going to start a business and one isn't part of the in crowd, the sensible thing to do is leave.

Etc., etc., etc.

This just doesn't work, and even a modicum of economic and political knowledge shows that it doesn't work. But there seem to be no strong voice on the left to stand up and shout that the emperor has no clothes.

The Raven

Why not form and join a union, after all? Wouldn't it be better to fight for your own, rather than work to pull down people who in the end are only doing a bit better than yourself?

Peter G

You're completely right about just about everything you wrote. I didn't say what they were doing would work. It can't. I merely observe that by using nasty tax policies and using the rather inequitable use of tax dollars vis-a-vis public servants the right has created wedge issues that force people for economic reasons to put their short term interests ahead of a longer view. It certainly has helped them take a lot of state houses but as all dog owners know, just because your dog can catch up with a car doesn't mean he knows how to drive it. See my first comment.

Peter G

As I have observed before offering an easier route to unionization might work for service employees but for those in manufacturing? It's just a faster way to lose your job. That's what happened in Wisconsin long before Scott Walker left high school. I prefer broader solutions myself. Trying to unionize Macdonald's is ridiculous. Say you get 15 bucks an hour? That puts MacDonald's at a competitive disadvantage and if you are a unionized employee there what are your union dues going to get you thereafter? If the union isn't seeking more why continue to be a union member and pay dues. Just raise the minimum wage for everyone in a judicious and regular way and that levels the playing field for all employers large and small and employees get to keep their earnings. That's what I'd do.

Peter G

Oh and btw you might want to look into exactly what a lot of unionized public servants get. It isn't a little more. In many cases it is two or three times the local median family incomes.

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