And Your Little Dog, Too.

101030 Rally for Sanity 005

Image by jacdupree via Flickr

Just before the election, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a monster rally on the mall. Stewart dubbed it a “Rally for Sanity” but nobody was sure what to expect… over-the-top craziness, wicked lampooning of the right-wing, silly political skits? However, it turned out to be just as billed. It was a serious attempt to restore sanity and even a measure of civility to the national political discourse. Perhaps the most memorable line from Stewart’s speech was, “When we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

Some on the left, particularly the commentator lineup at MSNBC, were stung by what they perceived as criticism from Jon Stewart. Soon afterward Rachel Maddow called him out (though in a fairly low-key manner) for what she perceived as his “unfairness,” which resulted in Stewart calling her bookers and requesting a one-hour sit-down to explain his views. It was a fascinating interview.

In essence it boiled down to Stewart chiding the left-leaning primetime MSNBC political lineup for being overly partisan and even mean-spirited in some of its criticisms of the right… and Maddow saying “but FOX does it first!… and they’re worse” … and Stewart gently explaining (as your mother used to when you had squabbles at school) that just because you’re being reactive doesn’t make it the proper thing to do, and so what if FOX does it, we should be better than they are…

So what do you all think of Jon Stewart’s lofty vision? I often wonder if it’s necessary or even wise to elevate the discourse. It seems to me it’s been pretty down and dirty for as long as there’s been politics, and some of the political cartoons and broadsheets from a hundred years ago would curl your hair. Canada is a famously polite nation, but the politics get downright vicious here as well. I suspect maybe vigorous, no-holds-barred political discourse is a sort of catharsis for partisan negativity, and possibly even necessary for a healthy democracy.

Which side is worse when it comes to dirt-slinging? And should one side unilaterally disarm (as Jon Stewart would prefer) in hopes the other will follow suit? I think the big problem for both sides lies in the title of my piece. You can try to be nice, you can resolve to be high-minded and courteous and civil… but then somebody threatens your little dog and it just pushes your buttons, and the war is on. I’d be interested in hearing what pushes YOUR buttons, particularly. Let’s ignore Jon Stewart for a while and air some of these grievances.

What do people on the other side do that just drives you nuts? Maybe we’re not even aware of things that induce a hostile knee-jerk reaction in our opposition, and if we knew, we’d stop doing it. (Or not… 🙂

Come on, people. We’re all friends here. For just a little while… let’s AMPLIFY!!!


About filistro

Filistro is a Canadian writer and prairie dog who maintains burrows on both sides of the 49th parallel. Like all prairie dogs, she is keenly interested in politics and language. (Prairie dogs have been known to build organized towns the size of Maryland, and are the only furry mammal with a documented language.)
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50 Responses to And Your Little Dog, Too.

  1. filistro says:

    In answer to my own question… What do people on the other side do that just drives you nuts? … it makes me absolutely FURIOUS when wingers constantly accuse those with whom they disagree of being “unpatriotic” or “hating America.” As if the right wing somehow holds a monopoly on patriotism.

    What an odious thing to do.

    It’s like, every time you have an argument over money or household chores, you accuse your spouse of lying and being unfaithful to the marriage. It’s a loathsome, incendiary, destructive way to behave.

  2. Just Sayin' says:

    The worst thing that the right does as far as I am concerned is the constant half truths and out right lying. Example: The deficit, recession, unemployment is all Obama’s fault or Nancy Pelosi’s fault. The new health care bill will kill granny with the “death panels”. Afghanastan is Obama’s war. Obama wasn’t born in this country. Obama is a muslim. Obama is a communist, facist, nazi. Obama did not extend his hand in bi-partisan fashion to get things done… ala our own Bart, because Obama didn’t agree with the rights ideas for this country, he is a democrat afterall, he was accused of shoving his agenda down the rights throats. sigh..etc…..you get the picture.

  3. Realist says:

    It’s a loathsome, incendiary, destructive way to behave.
    But you have to admit, it’s very effective. And that’s why they keep doing it.

  4. Just Sayin' says:

    And since I am at it, why they really annoy me is that they JUST DON’T GET THAT WE ARE IN THE 21ST CENTURY and to remain competitive we NEED a strong central government which understands that education, infrastructure, new forms of energy a healthy populace are paramount!!!! The GOP makes me fear for the future. I don’t want to live in a third world country. Their policies always want to take us backward. Dummies, the Chinese aren’t going backwards and neither are the Indians. I want to know that my grand children have a chance for a decent life. The GOP has nothing to offer.

  5. filistro says:

    @Realist But you have to admit, it’s very effective. And that’s why they keep doing it.

    Even your RESPONSE made me mad. The idea that people would do something so odious and divisive just because it’s “effective”… GRRRRR

    Yup, this one is definitely a button-pusher for me.

  6. filistro says:

    Just Sayin’… I also felt a slow burn when I read your list of “half-truths and outright lies.”

    Those things are really, really terrible. What’s more maddening is that people BELIEVE them… “death panels” and all… and my personal fave, the fact that this is “Obama’s recession.”

    Sigh… maybe I should never have opened this can of worms. I’m afraid it’s going to be stressful. 😦

    But maybe we’ll all feel better after venting?

  7. Realist says:

    Elections are forms of Darwinism. People learn from previous campaigns what works and what doesn’t. The next round of elections, the candidates keep what worked in previous elections, ditch what didn’t, and some experiment with new ideas. Those new ideas go through the test of electability. And so on.

    Over time, campaigning and governing have become more separate. Good governing doesn’t necessarily translate to reelection anymore. And so the focus becomes more on winning than on governing.

    Irresponsible governing wins elections, at least in the short term. In very broad terms: Conservatives want lower taxes (for themselves, at least) and less spending (on others, at least), but the lower taxes are more important. Liberals want more spending (on lots of stuff) and higher taxes (on the rich, at least), but the spending is more important.

    The upshot is that (again in very broad terms) winning elections requires triangulation of lower taxes (to get at least some conservatives) and more spending (to get at least some liberals), because the debt, while serious, doesn’t affect people right now. So it’s someone else’s problem (from the campaign’s perspective).

    It persists because it’s effective.

  8. filistro says:

    Realist… I think a major problem is that while governing and legislating is done with the intellect, camapiging is done largely at the emotional level. I suspect the things that most enrage people on both sides are the naked appeals to emotion that both parties engage in.

    (At least I assume both parties do it. I can’t offhand think of any leftie campaigning that is as egregious as the crap the right engages in… but I’m sure soembody will come along eventually and enlighten me 😉

    For those of us who pay attention to issues and policy, the mendacious drivel that gets fed to the public during election campaigns is really infuriating. And the right are master drivel-shovelers.

  9. Jared not from Subway says:

    “What’s more maddening is that people BELIEVE them… “death panels” and all”

    Yeah, wonder we neocons get that idea…

    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2010/11/14/paul-krugman-recommends-death-panels-help-balance-budget

  10. drfunguy says:

    I have to agree with filistro’s first comment.
    Calling your political opponents traitors is anti-democratic to put it mildly.
    BTW I see in your bio that “Prairie dogs … are the only mammal with a documented language”
    Makes me wonder just what it is in which we are engaging presently.

  11. filistro says:

    @ Doc.. Makes me wonder just what it is in which we are engaging presently.

    LOL… you’re the first one to think of that.

    Actually, prairie dogs have a real language… combinations of chirps, whistles, squeaks and body wriggles that are used to indicate various concepts. We, on the other hand, just press tiny letters on keyboards.

    (Keyboarding is very difficult for prairie dogs… they have really long claws…)

  12. filistro says:

    Jared, please look up the actual meaning of “neocon” before attempting to use it in a sentence.

  13. Just Sayin' says:

    “Death Panels” ie..palliative care. Open your eyes Mr. Jared, palliative care has been proven to both extend the lives of the terminally ill and the aged, but also to soothe the ill and family members. Do you have an elderly parent or a terminally ill family member? I have and do. Its not a &&^%$# death panel. Their are resources available to help with end of life issues and its not always about money. Stop spinning and start dealing.

  14. drfunguy says:

    Yep, calling something a death panel, that sure makes it just that.
    How about if I call myself king of the world?
    Jared, have you connsidered that insurance companies have the power to decide who gets what treatment? Are they death panels? Do tell us why it is better to have a profit-motivated corporation deciding whether you get an expensive treatment to prolong your life (at reduced profit for them) rather than having medical experts do so.

  15. Bart DePalma says:

    “When we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

    Stewart misses the point. The purpose of shouting at our wayward representatives is to make them hear us, not to better hear whatever spin they are delivering at the time.

  16. filistro says:

    @Bart… Stewart misses the point. The purpose of shouting at our wayward representatives is to make them hear us, not to better hear whatever spin they are delivering at the time.

    I absolutely, 100%, totally agree.

    But I think the question of the day is… do you see any purpose in all of us shouting at EACH OTHER?

  17. shortchain says:

    Bart misses the point. Shouting at your representatives doesn’t produce good government. It just raises the noise level so that calm, rational debate is impossible.

  18. shiloh says:

    Can you hear me now!

  19. filistro says:

    In reference to political tone… right after Jon Stewart’s rally, Olbermann suspended his “Worst Person In The World” segment to elevate the level of discourse. He asked his viewers their opinion and announced the results today… 73% want the segment returned exactly as it was.

    It appears Olbermann plans to reinstate it but somewhat toned down. .. the “not really” worst person in the world.

    I think we should declare a WPITW every day here at 538R. My pick for today would be that new Teaper legislator who campaigned on repealing HCR… and then pitched a big hissy fit today when he found out his own new govt-run HC will not be in effect for 29 days…

    http://www.care2.com/causes/health-policy/blog/tea-party-congressman-elect-asks-whats-taking-his-government-health-care-so-long/

  20. drfunguy says:

    How unusual, normally the teapers are so thoughtful and consistent…
    I guess that at its core the teaparty is greedy, hypocritical and self-centered

  21. Bart DePalma says:

    Fili:

    Are we actually shouting at one another?

    Tea Party rallies are not shout fests between right and left. The few silly kids from Colorado College who have attended our rallies in the Springs usually wave signs to the bemusement or rolling eyes of the Tea Party folks. There is one bored police officer keeping watch over 5,000 or so of us.

    The manufactured shouting on television and radio is entertainment, not actual debate.

    The folks in our local diners discuss issues over a meal and nary a heated word is heard.

    Frankly, Stewart and his Restoring Sanity crowd have no Earthy idea how lucky we are in this country. There is no killing over politics like there is places like Pakistan. There is no rioting and looting over politics as there is in France and Greece. Rather, there are dueling rallies where folks picnic and listen to speeches like the Tea Party 9/12 rally, the Beck Restoring Honor rally and the Stewart Restoring Sanity rally. Heck, if the political volume is limited to talking heads on TV and radio who I can banish with a push of button, we in America are blessed with comparative political peace and quiet.

  22. mclever says:

    filistro,

    Unsurprisingly, we share a pet peeve. Nothing gets my dander riled up more than someone telling me that I am unpatriotic for my political views. Occasionally, someone will even throw “you never served in the military” in my face. Yeah? Well not for lack of trying. I tried to join each service in turn: the Army, the Navy, the Air Force. I tried to go ROTC. I even tried to join via the military bands, but each service has a minor height requirement. They can fudge an inch or two, but not four or more. I can meet any physical requirement of strength or endurance, but I can’t make myself taller. So, I have to confine my overt displays of patriotism to avidly supporting those who do serve, flying our flag with pride, and singing our national anthem with enthusiasm. I love our Constitution, our principles, our national ideals. And someone *dares* to tell me I’m unpatriotic?

    Another one that riles me up is when a conservative says something outlandishly inflammatory or anti-factual, if I point out the outlandishness, then I am “offensive” or “extreme” and they were “just kidding.” I hate it when they can say whatever over-the-top things they want, but it’s not allowed for me to point out that they’re exaggerating or misleading or wrong…

    And the third thing that irritates me is anti-intellectualism from either conservatives or liberals. I want my leaders to be the smartest guys in the room and to be surrounded by *expert* advisers. Disregard for science, education and expertise infuriates me, and (as Michael so recently highlighted) it’s difficult to counter anti-intellectual prejudice without sounding “elitist” or “arrogant”…

    From the liberal side, I get my panties in a knot every time a liberal says something blatantly anti-religious. While many liberals are agnostic or atheistic (or humanist or whatever), that doesn’t make it right to act as if anyone who believes in God (or G-d or Allah or any other deity) can’t be a true liberal. It’s as if they forget that *most* liberals in this country are Christian, and another significant portion belong to some other faith. Alienating your allies is generally not smart. Just sayin’.

    OK, now you all know my dirty little secret. I do get very upset sometimes, though I try to keep my temper in check. And at this point, (I’m sure) someone else’s pet peeve is my over-use of parentheses!

  23. filistro says:

    Another in a long line of right-wing lies foisted on a gullible public by a devious political party and a lazy press corps.. the meme that “Republicans care about limited government and will ruthlessly slash spending.”

    Rachel Maddow just showed that of the last five presidents, the two who exploded the budget more than the others BY AT LEAST 500 PERCENT were Reagan and Bush II. And yet we keep hearing this “Dems are big spenders, GOP is fiscally thrifty” garbage. Or, as Maddow described it “Pin the Debt on the Donkey.”

    Republicans SAY it, the press REPORTS it, and the public BELIEVES it.

    Dear lord, but it’s maddening.

  24. mclever says:

    How dare you point out that Republicans aren’t the party of fiscal responsibility, filistro! You’re so extreme! 😉

  25. filistro says:

    You’re so extreme!

    Oh, you betcha. I’m also unchristian AND unpatriotic.

    Actually, Canadians aren’t really big on patriotism. Don’t get me wrong, they love their country… but quietly, and in private.

    If a Canadian politician were to, say, put his hand over his heart while the national anthem was being played, everybody around him would erupt in muffled giggles and snorts.

  26. Realist says:

    I think there’s confusion over what Jon Stewart means by amplification. It’s not about literal shouting at all. It’s about hyperbole.

    When people use “tyranny” when describing legislators voting in favor of legislation that they don’t like, that’s amplification. When people call a hypocrite the “Worst Person in the World,” that’s amplification. In both cases, they are effectively reductionism to a binary system: it’s either what I want, or it’s the worst thing imaginable.

    That approach leaves no room for nuance. No room to say “well, that was bad, but this is far worse.” And no room for negotiation and compromise.

    We cannot hear nuance when every amplifier is turned up to 11. Nor can we learn or grow. All we have left at that point is digging in the trenches and lobbing hand grenades at each other. It may get TV ratings. It may get traffic to your web site. But it makes us all worse off in the end.

    This is Jon Stewart’s point.

  27. mclever says:

    Well said, Realist.

  28. filistro says:

    @Realist… No room to say “well, that was bad, but this is far worse.”

    Jeez, you’re always so… realistic. 😦

    Okay, I will (grudgingly) do it your way.

    “Well, Grog is bad, but Bart is far worse.”

  29. Mainer says:

    Yes but as outlandish as any of this sounds the Barts of the world want so much to believe it that hey it must be real.

    Pet gripes: You are a Democrat/Progressive/F’n Liberal so you can’t possibly support our military/our country. When I show them my retired military ID I get the “what is that?”, or the “how did you wangle that?” Hey all one has to do is put 32 years of their life in and they too can have one…….the military does not seem to have cared that I was an F’n liberal/progressive/whatever……I showed up for duty and did it. As have all my liberal/progressive sons and just about all elements of my liberal progressive family going back to 1670.

    Next bitch: I don’t want to pay for things I don’t believe in………Well join the freaking club. I didn’t want to pay for a needless war. I get tired of paying for cheap electricity for people that could not care less that I pay the highest rates in the country, I don’t care if you get your nighty in a knot because of planned parent hood because I don’t like the idea of unwanted pregnancies that ruin young lives.

    I am sick to death of people that would further degrade our environment for a few bucks. I thought we had moved beyond “pickerel or pay checks”.

    What is it with people that wear their supposed christianity as a badge but would not lift a finger to help some one less fortunate then themselves unless it some how benifited THEM?

    I am tired of any discourse on tv having conservatives yelling over any one with another viewpoint. Shut up and listen…..you will not learn any thing because you do not want to but the rest of us might.

    I’m sick of lies. I’m sick of lies parading as fact. I’m sick of lies parading as fact when it has been shown to be lies. A debunked liar still saying the same lies is lower than whale shit.

    I’m sick of people thinking this is 1800.

    I’m beyond willing to accept America moving backwards so some rich SOB can save some miniscule amount of money.

    I’m sick of people thinking that because they have amassed more money then they are some how superior to some one that has kept our soceity functioning and not amassed great sums of money.

    I would like to see all chicken hawks lead the next great invasion or better yet have THEIR kids in the assault wave because I’m really really tired of seeing mine there.

    And most of all I get really pissed off with scantimonious psalm singing hypocrites. A whore in church can have a great voice and sing all the words in perfect key but at the end of the day she is still a whore in church. We have way too many political whores a pox on them all because at least with the whore in church she does still EARN a living unlike a goodly percentage of those pretending to be our elected leaders. (thank you gram for that bit of wisdom, might not make sense but you needed to know my gram.)

  30. Bart DePalma says:

    Fili: Rachel Maddow just showed that of the last five presidents, the two who exploded the budget more than the others BY AT LEAST 500 PERCENT were Reagan and Bush II.

    You really need to replace your broken BS detector.

    Federal spending under the Reagan Administration fell from 21.7% of GDP (FY1981) to 20.8% of GDP (FY1989).

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/downchart_gs.php?year=1981_1989&view=1&expand=&units=p&fy=fy11&chart=F0-fed&bar=0&stack=1&size=m&title=&state=US&color=c&local=s

    The bulge in the middle was for the military buildup which won the Cold War. If this cost is to be debited against Reagan, then the following 20 years of peace dividend where military spending halved as a percentage of GDP should be credited to him.

    It is true that spending rose as an absolute amount, driven primarily by the surge in tax receipts from the booming economy. Congress will spend every penny of taxes which comes in the door.

    In stark contrast, the Obama Administration spending surged from 20.6% of GDP (FY2008) to 25.4% (FY 2010).

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/downchart_gs.php?year=2000_2010&view=1&expand=&units=p&fy=fy11&chart=F0-fed&bar=0&stack=1&size=m&title=&state=US&color=c&local=s

    NOTE: If the Obama Administration had stuck to the FY2008 budget baseline set in 2008, I would not have credited 2008 to them. However, Obama punched discretionary spending up by a fifth, did most of the TARP spending, enacted the S-Chip increase and enacted the ARRA on top of the 2008 baseline. Most of the 2009 baseline was added by Obama before the FY2009 budget was even enacted that fall. Can’t blame that on Dubya.

    In sum, Reagan cannot hold a candle to Obama and the infamous Dem Congress – despite the best efforts of the estimable Ms. Maddow to spin otherwise.

  31. Mainer says:

    Ladies and gentelmen of the jury I offer as my only witness…….BART

    I would offer him as my only witless but why bother?

  32. Bart,

    Federal spending under the Reagan Administration fell from 21.7% of GDP (FY1981) to 20.8% of GDP (FY1989).

    Which, as you know, is meaningless. The question is how federal spending changed in real dollars. In real dollars, it rose at a slightly higher rate than during the Carter administration. Evidence here.

    The bulge in the middle was for the military buildup

    In other words, more money for guns, less for butter. But no real change in spending increases.

    Now, let’s take a look at the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush years, shall we? You’ll note that the years with the shallowest slope are the Clinton years. Note, too, that the slope was no different when the Republicans took over Congress, contrary to your prior assertions.

    It gets more interesting if you look at per-capita spending over that same period. When Clinton was President, it was almost perfectly flat. It didn’t rise at all until the last two years of his presidency. Who was in charge of Congress at that time? And then, as soon as we had a Republican President, it was off to the races again.

    Now, I’ll concede that the budget has exploded since Obama got in office. We’ve already discussed our differences with respect to how and why that happened, and I’m not going to rehash it here. I just want to call attention to just how badly you’ve missed out on exactly what was happening in government budgets from 1980 to 2008.

  33. shiloh says:

    Bartles, Bartles, Bartles

    the following 20 years of peace dividend

    Were the Iraq/Afghanistan (((continuing war costs))) figments of “our” imagination?

    Rhetorical question.

    And Bart, you claim to be a Desert Storm veteran ~ was that a figment of your imagination lol

    Eagerly awaiting your, as you say, (((BS))) retort …

    ok, that’s a lie 🙂

  34. drfunguy says:

    “The bulge in the middle was for the military buildup which won the Cold War.”
    Dude, I never guessded, all in a few short years, the cold war won by a bit of cash for weapons… I learn so much from you.
    Seriously, put down the crack pipe!

  35. Number Seven says:

    First off I love the new site. Easier to read, easier to navigate. First rate, guys and gals, lol. HTML hints are a nice touch. I do miss the spell check though. Bring it back if possible 🙂

    I think Maddow is correct in pointing out the false equivalency of comparing what FOX does and MSNBC does. FOX starts off with lies and then repeats them till they become common knowledge to their supplicants, I mean viewers. MSNBC goes with the truth and then applies some snarkiness to it.

    The Trite Wing are bullies, for the most part and my mother taught me you can’t play nice with bullies. You may get hurt trying to fight them but better to get knocked off your feet then live on your knees.

    Since Maddow, Shultz, and Olbermann can’t actually beat up the bullies and make them stop, they try to point out the their lies and make fun of them. This is not a case of amplifying things to the point nothing can be heard. It is a case of dealing with bullies, plain and simple.

  36. Number Seven says:

    “In sum, Reagan cannot hold a candle to Obama and the infamous Dem Congress – despite the best efforts of the estimable Ms. Maddow to spin otherwise.”

    In sum, Bart, if Obama was to spend like your messiah did, Obama would have to rack up the debt to 30 trillion dollars in six more years. This is not spin, this is a fact. Reagan trippled the debt in eight years.

    What is worse, tax and spend or borrow and spend?

    Look up the Two Santa theory folks, we are living it the way we are living the theory of gravity.

  37. shrinkers says:

    It sure is useful to have Bart here. No one else displays quite so well all the features of the right wing that we’re complaining about. Truly, if someone tried to portray Bart, it would come off as parody.

    The attempt to make Reagan and Bush look fiscally responsible and to tell us, apparently with a straight face, that “Federal spending under the Reagan Administration fell” (emphasis mine) is beyond ridiculous.

    I wonder if people in the right wing echo chamber actually believe that stuff, or if they intentionally use it as a way to hoodwink low-information voters. How do you deal with such outright dishonesty?

    It is a puzzle. Do you get into the mud with them? (which leaves you open to charges of simple name-calling.) Do you patiently try to explain the actual facts? (which means you’re “professorial” and thus “not one of us.) Stewart uses satire — but it takes a certain level of already-present knowledge to appreciate and understand that approach.

    The result of right-wing tactics is that many people actually believe in “death panels”. There are birthers and tenthers and fourteenthers and seventeenthers and twothers and believers in the Secret Muslin Socialite. The whole point of the Tea Party is discomprehension of American history and of current events. A percentage of Americans honestly seems to believe that the way to improve America is to elect incompetents and people who want to dismantle the gummint.

    We are witnessing the power of fact-free advertising.

  38. Bart DePalma says:

    Michael:

    Short of a constitutional amendment such as Colorado’s TABOR which caps the absolute amount of spending, governments always grow with the economy and tax receipts. Measuring fiscal frugality by absolute spending punishes Presidents presiding over prosperous times. Thus, the best method of measuring fiscal frugality is government spending as a percentage of GDP.

    The slide in spending as a percentage of GDP during the 90s is attributable to the generation long Reagan economic boom, the drawdown of the military and its budget (the peace dividend), the defeat of the Hillarycare entitlement and then the Gingrich slowdown of spending growth.

  39. Bart DePalma says:

    Sorry, I should not have included the growth in the economy in that last list of reasons. Time to get first cup of coffee.

  40. Bart,

    governments always grow with the economy and tax receipts.

    The key here is tax receipts. If the economy grows, but your tax receipts fall, then it’s no longer government spending every penny it earns. It becomes, rather, government spending pennies it doesn’t earn.

    So let’s look at the deficit in real dollars per capita, from 1970 to 2008. Remarkable chart, that. There were two Democrats in the White House, and both times the deficit consistently fell year over year during their terms. Reagan’s rose, and W took us from a surplus right back into the Reagan level of deficit.

    It becomes even more apparent when you look at the same chart, but examine the national debt instead.

    At the point where you are spending far more than your tax receipts, ties to tax receipts become meaningless measurements of fiscal frugality, and ties to the economy as a whole even less meaningful.

    Measuring fiscal frugality by absolute spending punishes Presidents presiding over prosperous times.
    Thus, the best method of measuring fiscal frugality is government spending as a percentage of GDP.

    Only if spending matches up with receipts.

    The slide in spending as a percentage of GDP during the 90s is attributable to the generation long Reagan economic boom, the drawdown of the military and its budget (the peace dividend), the defeat of the Hillarycare entitlement and then the Gingrich slowdown of spending growth.

    This is amazingly detached from reality, except for one thing. You are correct that there was a military drawdown, shifting guns back to butter.

    Somehow this “generation long Reagan economic boom” didn’t have any recessions, I guess, that would have led a Democratic candidate to have the internal campaign slogan of “It’s the economy, stupid.” Also, somehow the fact that something that never existed was held back from existing created fiscal responsibility where before there was none. Or there was, but it was invisible. Something like that. Oh, and best of all…the slowdown of spending growth that occurred before Gingrich became Speaker of the House is attributable to him anyway. The budget anticipated the upcoming elections and proactively reduced itself.

    You could use a lot of coffee, it would seem.

  41. Bart DePalma says:

    Michael Weiss:

    BD: governments always grow with the economy and tax receipts.

    The key here is tax receipts. If the economy grows, but your tax receipts fall, then it’s no longer government spending every penny it earns.

    To start, governments do not “earn” money, it takes it in taxes through a threat of imprisonment and fines.

    Next, tax receipts have never fallen over time during an economic boom. Tax receipts are far more a function of economic decline or growth than they are of tax rates.

    So let’s look at the deficit in real dollars per capita, from 1970 to 2008. Remarkable chart, that. There were two Democrats in the White House, and both times the deficit consistently fell year over year during their terms. Reagan’s rose, and W took us from a surplus right back into the Reagan level of deficit.

    Recessions and wars always increase deficits. This is why I concentrated on Obama’s spending rather than his deficit, part of which is attributable to the recession. The Reagan deficit plunged after the recession ended in 1983 and the military buildup ended in 1985. We can only dream of returning to the FY89 deficit during the Obama Administration.

    You are preaching to the choir about Bush 43’s profligacy. You will not bait me into defending Dubya’s indefensible spending just because he had a (R) following his name on the ballot.

    BD: The slide in spending as a percentage of GDP during the 90s is attributable to the generation long Reagan economic boom, the drawdown of the military and its budget (the peace dividend), the defeat of the Hillarycare entitlement and then the Gingrich slowdown of spending growth.

    This is amazingly detached from reality…

    What the 90s demonstrated is that you can balance the budget by shrinking spending as a percentage of GDP (ie slowing spending growth below economic growth). If you do not believe that halving the percentage of GDP dedicated to defense, declining to add a massive new health entitlement to spending and then slowing down the growth of existing entitlements made this possible, then it is not I who is detached from reality.

  42. Bart,

    To start, governments do not “earn” money

    Deflection, irrelevant to the topic at hand. Or, to put it another way, I don’t care.

    Next, tax receipts have never fallen over time during an economic boom.

    Another deflection, irrelevant as evidence to back up your claim that there is a direct correlation between government spending and tax receipts.

    Tax receipts are far more a function of economic decline or growth than they are of tax rates.

    Which is only relevant in the context of tax receipts ceteris paribus. Changing the tax laws can counter this, which is why there is not a pure correlation between tax receipts and economic activity. Further, this is why making the comparison of spending to GDP isn’t very useful.
    Really, the spending/GDP comparison would potentially be useful with respect to fiscal prudence only as a proxy to a spending/tax receipt comparison, and that proxy would only be needed if we didn’t have the actual tax receipt numbers. Fortunately, we do have them, so the GDP comparison is pointless.

    Recessions and wars always increase deficits.

    Wars, because they increase spending. Recessions, because they decrease tax receipts and increase spending.

    This is why I concentrated on Obama’s spending rather than his deficit…

    If you say so.

    The Reagan deficit plunged after the recession ended in 1983 and the military buildup ended in 1985.

    Look at this chart again. It “plunged” to match the highest level of the previous decade, which is also higher than almost the entirety of the Clinton administration. Damning with faint praise, if you ask me.

    What the 90s demonstrated is that you can balance the budget by shrinking spending as a percentage of GDP (ie slowing spending growth below economic growth).

    Or, more precisely, that shrinking spending relative to tax receipts is how you balance the budget. Gee, what a shock. If you stop running a deficit, you balance your budget. Thanks, Mr. Obvious.

    If you do not believe that halving the percentage of GDP dedicated to defense, declining to add a massive new health entitlement to spending and then slowing down the growth of existing entitlements made this possible, then it is not I who is detached from reality.

    You repeatedly gave Gingrich the credit for this. I demonstrated that this fiscal responsibility predated his term as Speaker of the House. This is the evidence that you are detached from reality.

  43. Just Sayin' says:

    Back to the subject at hand, Mainer says it the most eloquently on why the GOP drives me crazy. Its difficult to watch them chip away. Their policies are almost always bad for this country. If they actually come up with something sort of worthwhile they don’t fund it, ie.. no child left behind. Otherwise its business as usual, more for the rich and large corporations and nothing for you.

  44. Bart DePalma says:

    Michael:

    I am not going to play whack-a-mole as you keep changing the subject. I have made my points and rebutted yours. You again get the last word.

  45. Bart,

    I am not going to play whack-a-mole as you keep changing the subject.

    I’m changing the subject? Let me take you on a little trip.

    filistro said

    the two who exploded the budget more than the others BY AT LEAST 500 PERCENT were Reagan and Bush II

    to which you responded

    Federal spending under the Reagan Administration fell from 21.7% of GDP (FY1981) to 20.8% of GDP (FY1989).

    You changed the subject from the size of the budget to the size of the budget relative to GDP. I then proceeded to point out why the size of the budget relative to GDP is a meaningless comparison in terms of fiscal responsibility, and how, by any meaningful metric, Reagan’s fiscal responsibility was far worse than Clinton’s.

    You tried to defend the GDP comparison by saying

    Measuring fiscal frugality by absolute spending punishes Presidents presiding over prosperous times.

    And I responded by providing a metric that avoids punishing Presidents presiding over prosperous times, while being more accurate than the GDP metric, as a measurement of fiscal frugality.

    And yet you have the gall to accuse me of changing the subject.

  46. shiloh says:

    Not as much gall as it is just how Bartles operates ~ his m.o.

    Deflection
    Misinformation
    Gets corrected w/facts
    Quietly leaves said discussion for more trollish misadventures 🙂

    There really is quite a symmetry to Bart’s routine lol

  47. drfunguy says:

    shilo, you sum it up fairly enough
    what is astonishing and unprecendented in my memory is that BDP is accusing someone else of changing the subject rather than just, per usual, ignoring the presented facts in order to raise his propaganda points on the next thread.
    Can trolls evolve? Or is evolution a librul myth.

  48. filistro says:

    Having studied Bart’s m.o. for a long time , I think shiloh has omitted/misplaced a few steps.

    1.) data dump

    2.) begging the question (I learned this from mclever) 😉 consisting of:

    a.) misinterpretation of above data
    b.) sweeping generalization based on above misinterpretation

    3.) gets corrected w/facts

    4.) challenges correction

    5.) gets OVERWHELMED with facts

    6.) Quietly leaves said discussion for more trollish misadventures

    And yes, there’s definitely a symmetry to it. In fact, it’s a far better dance than any of Bristol’s 😛

  49. shiloh says:

    fili is obviously more detail oriented than me lol as maybe Bart is indeed, an exact junk science or something!

    the devil is in the details …

  50. Bartbuster says:

    Fili, and yet you continue to give that lying a-hole a platform. Unbelievable.

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