Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

“I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor.”

Wed 1 February 2012, 7:24pm


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Comments (115)

  1. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Ruarai

    As the man said,

    “Finish the sentence.”

    What do you think?
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  2. Obelisk (profile) says:

    Oh he’s so going to regret that when Obama’s campaign repeats it ad-naseum back it at him during the general election.

    I mean manufacturing soundbites for your opponent is just plain silly and careless and given the fact his wealth is now a campaign issue (thanks to Newt Gingrich), along with the Swiss bank account, the attack ads almost write themself at this point.

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  3. lover not a fighter (profile) says:

    At least he not trying to sell “We’re all in this together like Cameron and Osbourne” because lets be honest about it we’re not are we ?

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  4. Well, the whole quotation seems to be (courtesy of the Financial Times):

    “I’m not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there,” Mr Romney said, adding: “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”
    Mr Romney went on to say he was also not preoccupied with the wealthiest Americans, who are “doing just fine”. Instead, “I’m concerned about the very heart of America – the 90 per cent, the 95 per cent – of Americans who are struggling right now,” Mr Romney said.

    Does that greatly improve the context? Where is the Romney recipe to counter the plunges in house values, currently freezing “the very heart of America”? Or the job insecurity? That’s even before we address whether Romney a magic ingredient to bring work and wealth to, say, the Rust Belt and the streets of north Baltimore. Should the American electorate, facing hikes in tax on a regular basis, happily overlook his less than 15% tax rate (and Forbes thinks that’s 15% too high!)?

    Meanwhile Louis Hyman at the New York Times Opinion Pages notes that the Romneys seem to have invented sub-prime mortgages.

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  5. andnowwhat (profile) black spot says:

    There was a Spitting Image sketch were the tory cabinet met, having just one the election under Major. The gag was that they didn’t want to win after they fek’d everything up (thank goodness that never happened again) and started joking about what they could do to the electorate, they then started to discuss policies but had none as they didn’t expect to one, tried to throw it in fact.

    Would a party try to throw an election for fear of circumstances, in reality?

    At least if he one, Romney, the detatched multi millionaire, would have a lot to talk to Call Me Dave about.

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  6. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Pete, what’s your point? Are you assured that a man who starts a sentence that way is likely to be a reliable “fixer” of the net – or even a preserver of it?

    Plus, I think a real revelation could be missed here. The US left and the right agree that the net is broken – they just disagree on the nature of the problem. The right, at least since Goldwater, claiming that it’s very existence is problematic; the left that it’s inadequate, etc. Yet on these matters of crystal clear ideological division and preoccupation Romney concedes that he doesn’t even have much interest in the issue…”if it’s broken”. If?

    What motivates this guy to run? He claims it’s the ‘great middle’ but his family have only ever been very poor or very rich for generations so how credible is that? Why would he care about a class he has no feeling for or experience of?

    It’s further grounds for asking, as many have, why is this guy running at all? What’s driving him?

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  7. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Ruarai

    “Are you assured that a man who starts a sentence that way is likely to be a reliable “fixer” of the net – or even a preserver of it?”

    I really don’t care. Just don’t deliberately misrepresent what he’s actually said. As you have in this post’s title.

    By all means argue with his points – he hasn’t really made any in the clip you’ve provided, he just identified his “focus”. But it’s probably the talking point memo…

    [Is this an example of what we can look forward to during the actual election campaign? - Ed] Probably…

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  8. Mark (profile) says:

    His frank and honest answer is refreshing . He’ll more than likely get ravaged in the media because of it but at least you know what you’re getting with Romney .

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  9. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Pete, with respect, I think that interpretation is a little naive.

    It’s a clever statement by Romney, not a slip. He knows -at least his advisers know -that this sentiment will be exploited by people who zoom in, as I did, on the “up yours Jack”…sentiment. And he’ll simply say – “out of context!”, etc. But, he also knows, and, crucially, is motivated by how this very same sentiment plays to the base: It’s red meat to “the poor have only themselves to blame” crowd – the very base that are reluctant to buy his line that he’s one of them, fearing and suspecting instead that he’s a “moderate”.

    The way the rest of the election will play out is not by slips but by “slips” like these. It’s well crafted coverage-framing for a TV and internet age that debates little snippets to death. The frame here helps Romney move past personal politics with Newt and onto the very GOP base issues that he’s vulnerable on – while giving him the Janus-faced deniability “out of context!” he’ll need later.

    It’s awfully brilliant.

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  10. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Mark – “at least you know what you’re getting with Romney” – Are you serious? Isn’t the very opposite the problem he’s had?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUzEJiFpmsQ

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  11. Ruarai (profile) says:

    One more thing – notice how no matter how much of the quote you care to read, there’s a core distinction set up between “Americans” and the “very poor”.

    This will be another constant through the election: “Illegals” vs. “Americans…AFL-CIO vs “Americans”…ACLU vs. “Americans”. This is far more significant than standard boiler plate political rhetoric- it’s the type of framing that means it’s getting easier and easier to be considered an illegal immigrant suspect on grounds of being Latino in Arizona, a terrorist suspect on the grounds of being Arab, a criminal on the grounds of being African-American and so on and so on.

    Whatever else Romeny’s slip was, it wasn’t a slip – he knows what he’s saying and who he’s saying it to.

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  12. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Ruarai

    So you’re playing into his game plan, but it’s ok, because you know you’re playing into his game plan?

    And I’m the one who’s “a little naive”?

    But who said it was “a slip”?

    What I said was

    …don’t deliberately misrepresent what he’s actually said. As you have in this post’s title.

    By all means argue with his points – he hasn’t really made any in the clip you’ve provided, he just identified his “focus”. But it’s probably the talking point memo…

    BTW, I have a cunning plan. A turnip may be involved…

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  13. Mark (profile) says:

    Ruarai ,

    Every politician flips and flops as they say . I made the point that his comment was refreshing but that he’d get hammered because of it . I’ve no doubt this election will be dirty and there will be plenty of the attack ads we’ve become so accustomed to hearing / seeing .

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  14. andnowwhat (profile) black spot says:

    Re the OP, some times something like this video needs no context added. What on earth could one say so such comments to belittle them anymore than Romney does.

    As I said on another site, keep in mind that the poorest in America are beyond anything we have in western Europe. It is a level of poverty that we would nearer equate to the third world.

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  15. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Pete, what has political rhetoric got to do with debating points? This is an election, not a debate.

    Understanding and analyzing electoral politics isn’t about assessing debating points, it’s about decoding debating tactics. The significance of the snippet, in my view, is that it is an instantly classic exhibit of how the game is played.

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  16. Ruarai @ 9:54 pm is hearing the dog-whistle.

    When Romney (and any other Republican) goes heavy on “American”, especially when that is closely adjacent to a reference to making Obama a “one-term president” or “reclaiming America”, he is getting to the “birthers” and the TeaParty types.

    In the short-term it’s a fund-raiser (and the overwhelming bulk of Romney money comes from the big boys). In the long-term it presages as dirty a campaign as one could wish for.

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  17. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    “This is an election, not a debate.”

    And this is a blog. Where we have the time and space to do more than instantly react to deliberately misrepresented talking points.

    “The significance of the snippet, in my view, is that it is an instantly classic exhibit of how the game is played.”

    Then un-pack it, Ruarai. Don’t simply throw your red meat out for the pack to devour.

    Even if, as you claim, you knew all along that you were playing into the Romney campaign game plan…

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  18. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Pete,

    the point of a blog is a real time conversation, not a thesis seminar but whatever.

    If you took a little more time before reacting, I think you’d come to see that the dog whistle, as Malcolm correctly labels my labeling of it, is exactly what has been identified and analysed.

    The post is about the use of and impact of rhetoric, it’s not an advocacy post.

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  19. gendjinn (profile) says:

    Ruarai,

    you have to forgive Pete, he often confuses pedantry with analysis. You should have pointed out that you did finish the sentence, that’s what a fullstop does. It finishes the sentence. In this case Pete couldn’t even get the pedantry right.

    It’s quite clear from the Republican reaction that they share your analysis of Romney’s gaffe: Weekly Standard, National Review, Red State.

    Pete should probably just stick to posts where he can use Londonderry as often as possible.

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  20. Dewi (profile) says:

    Big mistake I think – a sort of triumph of calculation over decency. Pete – these people think about sentence structure and soundbites – the message was clear – and i reckon decent Americans will be repulsed. Clinton did it best – appeal to the dispossessed and you appeal to everyone. Who on earth are the Republicans going to put up?

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  21. Dewi (profile) says:

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/five-paths-forward-for-g-o-p-nomination/#more-24921

    Nate’s good at this stuff.

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  22. I must confess I’ve nothing against a bit of pedantry.

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  23. dennis the menace (profile) says:

    this is the republican party, of course they dont care about the poor…why does that come as surprise to anyone

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  24. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    ‘…they have a safety net. If it has holes in it, I will repair them.’

    Clearly, Romney does not grasp the concept of a net.

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  25. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    “It’s red meat to “the poor have only themselves to blame” crowd”

    I know it’s taken as a given by every right thinking Guardian reader that the poor are all victims of circumstances straight out of a Dickens’ novel but what point are we allowed to discuss the premise of poverty, especially in the US and other advanced societies which are in the process of importing millions of genuinely poor people from the Third World to do jobs that the “poor” natives are apparently incapable of doing?

    Kevin Myers raised the issue recently about Egyptian fishermen working on boats in Cork, others commented on the absurdity of Irish emigrants leaving Ireland apparently because there are no jobs and going through airports staffed by immigrants and on board Irish planes where the entire crew comes from overseas.

    Seriously, since the inauguration of Johnson’s Great Society and the welfare state in Britain eleventy gazillion billion dollars have been spent in a veritable tsunami to help the poor but oddly enough they are still poor.

    At what point are you allowed to question the entire premise of poverty reduction? Can we perhaps examine the possibility, and here I stand back awaiting the howls of outrage, that many people are “poor” (nobody in western countries is actually poor in any real sense) in the US and UK because they choose to be, because they made rational life decisions to remain in poverty despite the opportunities to raise their status?

    No, why bother let’s just content ourselves with the self righteous idea that people are poor because big bad meanies in top hats, twisting their waxy mustaches and cackling maniacally made them “poor”.

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  26. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Harry

    ‘…at point are we allowed to discuss the premise of poverty…’

    At the point where you accept that rich people are rich because deserve to be. If the poor are poor because they deserve to be, that’s the obvious corollary.

    Personally, I’d suggest the vast majority of that demographic, which is shrinking in number as it expands in wealth, are rich because they were born into it, because they have sold at great profit the work of others, or because a frankly improbable confluence of events allowed them to steal it. (Russian oligarchs and Wall St financiers, how are ye?)

    According to your logic, they deserve their rewards, though they would make Croesus blush.

    But by every metric that I know of, average real wages in the US and UK have stagnated or declined over the past thirty years. At the same time, the wealthiest sections of society have seen their wealth grow at a rate never seen before, in the two centuries for which we have reliable economic data. The gap between the two has shot off the chart, to an extent for which there is no precedent. Even the Gilded Age was not so gilded.

    Is this because the wealthiest section of society has suddenly become vastly more intelligent, vastly more hard-working? If so, then they are indeed vastly more deserving, because – according to your logic – they have managed to multiply their already great wealth at the same time that 99% of the population has suddenly become lazy and stupid and unmotivated.

    Personally, I don’t think that’s what has been happening at all. I think the game has been rigged. I think the wealth of society have been stealing from the rest of us for years. The bailouts graphically illustrated it. We live with massive poverty, because there is massive theft going on.

    ‘…the US and other advanced societies which are in the process of importing millions of genuinely poor people from the Third World to do jobs that the “poor” natives are apparently incapable of doing?’

    Really? Say, the US, Europe, Japan and Australia are importing millions of poor people?

    Actually, Europe is a fortress. North Africans are left to drown in the Mediterranean, the Aussies do likewise off their shores. Meanwhile, the US is building a fence that electrocutes Mexicans.

    Now, there is illegal immigration. Of course there is. Where there is great wealth, people will be drawn to it.

    Take the US and Mexico. Twenty years ago, the US-Mexico border was quite open. Today, huge numbers of Mexicans cross over illegally, though it’s more dangerous than it was for East Germans to cross the wall. They are now cleaning the houses and gardens of lower-middle-class Texans, or selling their bodies on the streets of California. (Though, in the New Depression, some of them are actually going home.)

    Why has this happened? By your logic, it’s because the personalities of Americans and Mexicans have changed. The Americans have gotten lazy, whereas the Mexicans are the very spirit of entrepreneurship.

    Personally, I think it’s because something very significant changed between the US and Mexico. Something called Nafta. It just happened to obliterate the productive economy of Mexico. I think that might have something to do with it.

    Nafta allowed a very small number of rich people in the US and Mexico to make out like bandits, by driving down production costs. This had the effect of destroying the lives of millions of working people in two countries. But that was the choice that was made, and we live with the results. The globalisation of capital generally has had this effect everywhere.

    ‘…oddly enough they are still poor.’

    You’re missing an important point. The poor of American and Britain are much MORE poor than they used to be. The welfare state is a sticking-plaster, which holds the society together, just, while the economic system works overtime to destroy it. These contradictory, and antagonistic forces, could co-exist while there was enough money to pay for both – the only real cost was a ballooning percentage of the population that is basically useless – but we have now reached the point, always inevitable, where that arrangement has run out of road.

    ‘At what point are you allowed to question the entire premise of poverty reduction?’

    The real question is, at what point will you question the premise of poverty manufacture? (i.e. the system we have now.)

    ‘Can we perhaps examine the possibility… that many people are “poor” … because they choose to be,’

    Without reference to the economic system within which they live, such an argument is little more than an incantation of faith – and, if I may say, a rather misanthropic faith it is too.

    Can I just ask: are you a fan of Ayn Rand?

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  27. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Please ignore the opening paragraph of that last post, which is completely unrelated, and was included accidentally.

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  28. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    Jesus, what’s with the Ayn Rand obsession these days? Between you and Malcolm we can’t seem to get away from her.

    Seems like the only people who read Rand are lefties. I never read a word the woman wrote.

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  29. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Fair enough! Just wondered.

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  30. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Btw, here’s a fuller transcript of what Romney actually said. Fuller, that is, than the carefully edited video clip Ruarai’s provided.

    Mitt Romney: “They want someone who they have confidence in. I believe I will be able to instill that confidence in the American people. By the way, I’m in this race, because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor; we have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling, and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.”

    By some people’s logic here Romney’s just said “the very rich” are not American…

    But I guess a “I’m not concerned about the very rich” post title wouldn’t be quite so deranged appealing.

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  31. nobody in western countries is actually poor in any real sense

    Sorry, Harry Flashman @ 10:05 am, you overdo it there. Fancy a life-style in the land of the freebie and home of the braves? You can in many a Reservation, where the per-capita income is $4.50 a day or less. All in.

    Romney was in Florida, primarily addressing Floridans.

    One in six of the population of the Sunshine state live (admittedly by the US Census Bureau’s measure) below the poverty line. Florida, moreover, does rather better than the rest of the South — only one of its counties features in the shame-list of the poorest 100 across the US. Hamilton County voted 359 for Gingrich, 137 for Romney, 67 for Santorum and 57 for Ron Paul: on a 38% turnout.

    On another point, why does Harry never fail to denounce the Guardian and all its works? I was taught to read and hear both sides of any argument: so what am I doing amiss?

    [By the by, VirginMedia broadband is wearing its whore's drawers again today. Hence my inability to keep up with this and other threads. Still, I did manage four nationals — including the Guardian — and one local paper.]

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  32. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Pete

    ‘By some people’s logic here Romney’s just said “the very rich” are not American…’

    Really? How so?

    I’ve tried, but I can’t see the ‘logic’ to which you refer.

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  33. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Both Romney and Gingrich spent tens of million in Florida on whats called ‘negative ‘advertising with Romney outspending Gingrich by a 7 to 1 margin .A lie repeated often enough becomes ‘truth ‘ at least as far as a large enough section of the American voting public seem to believe and act/vote on . Florida is home to 25% of all foreclosed properties in the USA and whats telling is that neither Gingrich nor Romney while in the State came up with any ideas or policies which would take Florida out from under the drag on it’s economy and indeed the entire US economy.Both candidates and indeed others as well failure to address this issue with specific proposals is a reflection of the absence of ideas on the right .For Floridians President Obama’s tepid measures have failed and now the USA ‘discovers’ that Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac have been ‘imitating ‘Goldman Sachs ‘in their services to their clients -i.e lying and gouging in the case of the latter the victims were their clients and in the case of Freddie and Fannie the victim is the American mortgage holder who pays his/her mortgage on time but who is ‘disallowed’ by means devious and cunning from taking advantage of present low interest rates to refinance .

    It’s a long time until November. At this stage I would’nt be surprised if Ron Paul were to run as a third candidate . Given public disenchantment with Congress (9% favourable rating ) and Republican infighting and the Democratic failure to even partially resolve the current malaise in the economy .
    All we need is a re awakening of the Occupy movement in the spring -this time with a more pointed and focused political line and the USA could be following the Arab spring with a long hot summer .

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  34. Neil (profile) says:

    On another point, why does Harry never fail to denounce the Guardian and all its works?

    Top Gear humour. Guardianistas, smoking pipes, wearing sandals, growing beards and so on. If only we could all be sensible like the Daily Mail (here predicting thousands of dead per week, due to the cold snap hitting potentially deadly day time lows of 2 degrees C) or on the other side of the pond the wonderfully balanced Fox News who of course when compared to the likes of the Guardian is a far superior, more balanced form of journalism.

    LMAO.

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  35. what’s with the Ayn Rand obsession these days? Between you and Malcolm we can’t seem to get away from her.

    Seems like the only people who read Rand are lefties. I never read a word the woman wrote.

    Well, Harry Flashman @12:54pm, I’ve never suspected you of reading anything.

    The significance of Rand (apart from renaming herself after a typewriter) is that, among the TeaParty tribes, she is the key VIP-DIP (“Venerated in public; disdained in private”: © Anne Norton). She is cited as an influence by so many from Alan Greenspan down. She is a central figure in the teaching of Leo Strauss of the Chicago School. The Library of Congress surveyed seminal influences: Rand ran second to the Bible. Atlas Shrugged was in Amazon.com’s top twenty as recently as 2010 (more as right-on interior decoration than anything else). Russ Limbaugh (who probably reads as much as Harry) declares her “Brilliant”. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Thomas (Clarence the Silent) is “really partial to Ayn Rand”. Rand Paul had to go on record that he was not named in her honour.

    If only “lefties” read her, that doesn’t surprise me either. After all, where else is critical intellect?

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  36. Brian (profile) says:

    I used to rent a room in a house with some libertarian types here in DC. One worked for the Cato Institute, another ran a libertarian blog and works on the Paul campaign.

    Anyway, they were big fans of Ayn Rand. They gave me a copy and I tried to read Atlast Shrugged but had to stop about halfway through…it needs a good editor. That book had multiple 30+ page speeches!

    But yes, as Malcolm mentioned, that book has gained quite a following on the (American) right in recent years. More of the libertarian right than the traditional right, I would say, but there is some crossover. Supposedly Alan Greenspan was a student of her philosophy as well.

    Personally, there are lots of real intellectuals I’d rather spend my leisure time gaining knowledge from.

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  37. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Which tome directly and indirectly did the most damage to the world’s economies and it’s people’s ?

    Atlas Shrugged or Mein Kampf ? The former worshipped the cult of the ‘individual ‘ uber alles whereas the latter worshipped the ‘master race ‘uber alles :(

    Some race and what masters -55 million dead and a world economy gone to neo con bankster led perdition .

    But hey there’s good news too . Mr Greenspan has admitted the error of his ways and in retro has stated that he should not have believed that the ‘banksters’ would turn personal greed into weapons of mass economic destruction :(

    Whenever the ‘new ‘ world order take’s over following the upcoming worldwide collapse of financial sector capitalism they could get off to a good start by consigning Ayn Rand’s and Hitler’s rantings to the bonfire of vanities that both these ‘nutters’ foisted on a world with more than a sufficient supply of same :(

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  38. Greenflag (profile) says:

    oops error above :( should read

    Mr Greenspan has admitted the error of his ways and in retro has stated that he should not have believed that the ‘banksters’ would NOT turn personal greed into weapons of mass economic destruction.

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  39. Jimmy Sands (profile) says:

    “Taken out of context” as a defence is rarely convincing, usually in defence of a quote where the only forgivable context would be a sentence beginning “Only an utter moron would say…”

    Of course he doesn’t care about the poor. None of them do. They don’t vote and they certainly don’t donate. You’re just not supposed to admit it.

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  40. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    The only people who are genuinely poor and struggling in the US and UK and indeed Ireland today are not those on benefits but those who have to work and keep a roof over their families heads.

    The leisured benefits class are not by any stretch of the imagination “poor”.

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  41. Harry Flashman @ 7:00 am:

    Do at least try to make your trollings relevant: this is a thread about Romney’s mouthings about US wealth and poverty. Doubtless your bees will get unbonneted elsewhere, yet again.

    Bloomberg Businessweek has a piece by Mike Dorning, datelined just today:

    More than 20 million Americans live in a household with income of less than half the federal poverty rate, the level social scientists often use as a category for the very poor, according to census data for 2010. Last year that meant an annual income below $11,057 for a family of four.

    The portion of the population in that category was the highest in at least 35 years and has almost doubled since 1975, from 3.7 percent then to 6.7 percent in 2010.

    Romney told CNN on Feb. 1 that “I’m not concerned about the very poor” because they have many programs to help them. He later clarified his remarks, telling reporters on his campaign plane that low-income people have an “ample safety net,” including Medicaid, housing vouchers, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    Facing a barrage of criticism from Democrats and one of his Republican competitors, Romney said yesterday on Las Vegas television station KSNV’s “Face to Face with Jon Ralston” that he “misspoke” in the CNN interview.

    But — hey! — as Harry could happily respond, they count really count. They’re only the “little people”.

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  42. Err, even “they don’t really count”. Except every bawbee.

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  43. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    It’s precisely relevant Malc old boy, Romney is clearly stating that those on benefits in US society are already being looked after and the richest don’t need looking after, but the people who are struggling in western society today are the middle classes.

    Ergo; relevant.

    Succinct and concise too I might add, unlike your usual windbaggery.

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  44. Harry Flashman @ 10:39 am:

    So, in your view:

    1. Romney is wrong to say he “misspoke”;

    and

    2. he was speaking of “western society” in general, and not, as the original context has it twice, of “Americans”.

    3. None of that is self-contradiction, by Romney and/or Flashman. It all makes perfect sense.

    Now, what was Al Borland’s catchphrase on Home Improvement?

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  45. pauluk (profile) says:

    Just a little reminder of ‘the poor’ in America…

    The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau as taken from various government reports (2011):

    80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

    92 percent of poor households have a microwave.

    Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.

    Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.

    Two-thirds have at least one DVD player, and 70 percent have a VCR.

    Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers.

    More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.

    43 percent have Internet access.

    One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.

    One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.

    The poor?? C’mon!

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  46. pauluk @ 1:52 pm:

    Yeah, yeah, the Heritage Foundation’s July 18, 2011 Backgrounder. Small paper tsunami: not many dead. So good they had to say it thrice (as report of July 19th, and as your hot-link).

    Then again, the HF did almost the same exercise back in 2007.

    But you missed the refrigerator! Shame on you not to point out such extravagance! Or was that because that one was laughed out of court? After all, no fridge for perishables, shopping bills soar. Or was it because many items on that list (starting with a/c, of which you make so much) are likely to be landlord’s property? Were the “poor” to sell them, the “poor” would be in chokey?

    The there’s the curious manipulation of statistics: according to the Heritage Foundation only 30 million Americans are in poverty: the official statistic is that number should be around 43.6 million. Explanation: the HF invented a “median” of poverty (i.e. a poverty level inside the poverty level).

    Oh, and “only” 12% of those in poverty have significant or severe mobility problems. So that’s all right (far right) then!

    Finally the whole purpose of the HF exercise was a political stunt: to feed “data” into Jim Jordan’s “Republican Study Committee” to oppose Obama’s “spread the wealth” formula. The Republican Study Committee?, I assume you may ask. Yes: all the usual suspects and towering intellects are there — check ‘em out.

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  47. Catherine Couvert (profile) says:

    ‘Romney is clearly stating that those on benefits in US society are already being looked after and the richest don’t need looking after, but the people who are struggling in western society today are the middle classes.’
    ‘Struggling’ ie less well off than before but presumably still better off than ‘the very poor’?
    As for that safety net, I thought it was a sieve with very large holes.

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  48. Nice one, Catherine Couvert @ 5:37 pm.

    Interesting that those (see above) who wish to make a political point wider than Romney’s plainly Americocentric comment are not rushing to compare:

    ¶ Obama-economics, which has reduced US unemployment yet again, boosting stock markets and doing good generally. E’en the the hordes of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer that, while US public employment is down by 14,000, private sector jobs are up by 257,000.

    The significance there is Romney’s claim to be able to create jobs: “My job is to get Americans back to work. If I’m president of the United States, I’ll worry about your jobs, not my job.” Which isn’t quite what others in the GOP take on Romney’s business career at Bain Capital.

    Whereas

    ¶ we have the sado-masochism “austerity” being practised by “Gids” Osborne. For every UK private sector job created, 13 are destroyed in the public sector.

    [I should be grateful to Osborne's penchant for "white powder and a strong dusky arm" — my statporn tells me that's one of my greatest … err … hits.]

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  49. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    “‘Struggling’ ie less well off than before but presumably still better off than ‘the very poor’?”

    Nonsense.

    I will be seeing my half century, God willing, in a few years and I am one of the last generation to know people in the UK who were genuinely “poor”. Every class had two or three kids who we all described as coming from poor families, the rest of us were working or middle class and knew the difference. The poor kids looked poor, they were skinny, underfed, had old, worn clothes and wore cheap thin plimsols all year round.

    Their mothers were pinched, haggard women, and were usually poor through some misfortune regarding their husband, alcoholism, dead beat, run away, whatever.

    You never particularly wanted to visit their homes (and weren’t terribly welcome there anyway), there was either oil cloth on the floor or worn carpet, no phone and one old cheap black and white TV. The house smelt of boiled cabbage and the kids had bread and margarine and tea for their dinner or maybe a gristly cheap cut of meat for Sunday.

    That was the early seventies, most people my age could name families like them, no one would ever like to see a return to such living standards and thankfully they were eradicated by the 1980′s (under mean old Maggie Thatcher) as welfare was increased and women’s rights have meant they aren’t dependent on feckless men.

    Now however if you go to a house that has no cable or satellite TV subscription, no x-boxes, only one cheap mobile phone, an older model car or indeed one that has been sold altogether, parents wearing old patched clothes and resoled shoes, central heating turned down to the minimum, you can bet your bottom dollar you are visiting a middle class household that is desperately trying to keep a roof over their heads and give their children a decent education.

    Only the very rich and those on benefits can enjoy real material comforts these days.

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  50. Harry Flashman @ 3:09 am:

    Nonsense. Absolutely deceiving and self-deceiving nonsense.

    The legacy of the Thatcher era was to escalate child poverty, to the point where Britain was ranking behind the rest of the developed world.

    Consider the 2007 UNICEF report of 21 nations, including many from the old Soviet bloc. It measured six elements: material well-being, health and safety, educational well-being, family and peer relationships, behaviour and risks, and subjective well-being. The UK came last on the relationships and behaviour dimensions, next-to-last on subjective well-being, 17th on education and 18th on material well-being. The US (my nod at relevance to the thread) was just — just — ahead of the UK. On only one point, health and safety was the UK not at the bottom of the listings.

    Only the Hungarians, Latvians and Poles endured worst child poverty rates than the UK. Across Europe the norm was 19% of children in poverty. In the UK it was 25%.

    What Thatcher did was what Harry Flashman attempts here. It amounts to sanitising, to verbal cleansing — “poverty” can be eliminated if we call it something else. The favourites were “the underclass” or “social exclusion”.

    Seeing the horror of the situation, on 18th March 1999 PM Blair used the Beveridge Lecture to declare a “target”: to eradicate child poverty within a generation. That, sadly, got lost along the way, so we could pay the bankers obscene bonuses, lest they collapsed the economic system. Now that couldn’t possibly be allowed to happen, could it?

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  51. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    You know what I say is true Malc, the absolute truth.

    Those who live on benefits in the UK today are by no stretch of the imagination “poor”, not by any rational definition of the word (and by that I don’t mean definitions provided by the multi-billion pound poverty lobby) many such families have incomes running well into five figures, with state-provided education, housing and health. Nobody living such a life can be described as remotely “poor”.

    Families who choose to work in the UK are the families who are struggling hard to keep their heads above water and keep a roof over their heads.

    This is a fact, an inconvenient one for those on the left, but a fact nonetheless.

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  52. Harry Flashman @ 5:37 am:

    You know what I say is true Malc, the absolute truth.

    Sadly no. Truth usually involves the occasional observable and testable fact. Not a diatribe of subjective opinion.

    And yes, Harry, your trolling has made me slip off-topic. Congratulations: may it bring a little joy into your life. Let me widen your literary acquaintance with a precise contemporary of Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC KCB KCIE:

    “Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

    “Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

    “And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

    “They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

    “The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

    “Both very busy, sir.”

    “Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

    “Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

    “Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

    “You wish to be anonymous?”

    “I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.

    I see here that three-quarters of those arrested in last August’s English riots were gaoled. Good. That means that nearly as many went to chokey as go into hospital care, per annum, for rickets. Rickets is a disease of poverty, and one we had beaten. It is now on the increase.

    There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies. — a certain Winston Churchill, of war-time conditions.

    Meanwhile London has the highest rate of TB of any European capital city. Don’t blame immigration: the disease may be latent, but it’s reactivated by “overcrowded, unsanitary accommodation, which combined with poor nutrition and stress all contribute to its spread”. Another disease of poverty we thought we had overcome.

    Even the kindest interpretation of your remarks might baulk at many such families have incomes running well into five figures, with state-provided education, housing and health.

    Are you suggesting that “such families” should exist on incomes of four figures? Have you no concept of what this present government is doing to welfare, education and the NHS? A small but telling example: the deserted single parent with dependant children will now be required to put a deposit up front before officialdom takes note of the absconding spouse. A more significant one: that “free health” (paid for by 9% deduction from pay and salary) is already being constrained by medical practices who realise treatment is off their surgery budget.

    The “popular” £26,000 benefit cap (“popular” until someone actually starves to death) could mean:

    The worst hit, of course, are large families in the south-east, where rents are higher. Even in Tolworth, described by the Evening Standard as the “scrag end of Kingston borough”, a four bedroom house will give you little change from £400 a week. Cutting housing benefit to £100 a week – which is broadly what the cap means if you have four children – makes life impossible. After rent, council tax and utilities, a family with four children would have 62p per person per day to live on. That is physically impossible.

    Equally impossible is debating with those whose attitudes are inflexible.

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  53. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    Read that again, a cap on benefits at twenty-six thousand pounds, twenty-six thousand quid, and you seriously in all honesty talk about people starving to death?

    Do you know how much a working family would have to earn to take home twenty-six thousand pounds? Something in the region of thirty-five thousand pounds before tax and out of which they then have to pay for their accommodation and transport to work.

    Sweet screaming Jesus, I work six days a week, eight hours a day, with no benefits from the state whatsoever and I don’t take home next nor near twenty-six thousand pounds!

    Do you seriously expect any rational being to believe that people on benefits are “poor”?

    Thank you Malcolm for conclusively proving my point.

    Twenty-six thousand nicker for sitting around on your arse watching TV, Jesus wept, I’m a complete mug.

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  54. No, Harry Flashman @ 11:59 am, not so.

    The cap is total. So, in one of the more dismal parts of London, £20,000 direct to the landlord. £6,000 to feed and clothe a family.

    “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!”, preferably in Belcoo, Barnsley, Blaenavon or Biggar — but not, definitely, definitively not in Battersea.

    It’s called “decanting”: ship the poor out to places where there aren’t any jobs, then they’ll surely find employment. Out of sight, out of mind. The way “undesirables” are being swept off the streets so as not to offend any Olympians and tourists. Self-evident, really.

    I realise that Harry finds reading tiresome, but there is an excellent academic study (three words in themselves likely to offend) on the effects of Local Housing Allowance:

    Most inner London boroughs are likely to become almost entirely unaffordable to low-income tenants on LHA by 2016. The large clusters of neighbourhoods in outer East, South and West London which our model finds to remain affordable in 2016 are likely to house increasing numbers of low-income tenants as a result of the reforms. The areas which remain affordable are characterised by high rates of multiple deprivation and unemployment among the existing population.

    At least it will a naice classless society in Kensington and Chelsea.

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  55. Catherine Couvert (profile) says:

    Even Boris Johnson is upset about the cap’s effect on London.

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  56. Greenflag (profile) says:

    @ harry flash,

    It’s all relative Harry .The more success the more relatives .Even Mitt Romney would agree as he points out courtesy of Mr Borowitz how ‘poor ‘he is compared to some .

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today released the following letter to the American people:

    Dear American People:

    Yesterday, comments I made about poor people made me look terrible. This always seems to happen when I say what I really believe.

    The fact is, I do care about poor people. That’s because I’m poor myself, when you compare me to Mark Zuckerberg.

    According to most projections, Facebook’s IPO should net Mr. Zuckerberg a personal fortune of $28 billion. I couldn’t make a pile of dough-re-mi like that even if I fired people twenty-four hours a day.

    Now, let’s take a look at Mitt Romney’s net worth: a measly $200 million. Now do you see why I consider myself poor? Compared to Mark Zuckerberg, Mitt Romney is practically a crack whore.

    Now, I’m not going to sit here and envy a rich person like Mark Zuckerberg. That’s exactly what President Obama wants poor people like me to do. Mark Zuckerberg made his money fair and square, by creating useful products like imaginary sheep and angry birds. Say what you will about Facebook, it has totally revolutionized the way we waste our lives.

    The fact is, if you’re poor in America, you should do what Mark Zuckerberg did: create a social network. I’ve just started my own, called TwoFaceBook. With TwoFaceBook, your profile doesn’t stay the same for more than two seconds.

    In closing, there’s one more reason I don’t worry about poor people. They have Groupons.

    Vote for me,

    Mitt Romney

    And don’t vote for the LIzard Gingrich cos he’s the three faced candidate :(

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  57. The yokel (profile) says:

    Welcome to Feudalism 2.0

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  58. Alias (profile) says:

    “The “popular” £26,000 benefit cap (“popular” until someone actually starves to death)” – Malcolm

    Society could solve the problem of its poor misfortunates starving to death on a mere 26k of taxpayer-funded state benefits by introducing an opt-in tax. That way, the bleedin’ hearts could put their money where their mouth is by donating as much of their income in taxes as they deem necessary for the purpose.

    The problem would be, of course, they only want other people to put their money where said bleedin’ hearts’ mouth is, and such am opt-in tax is unlikely to raise a single sent from said bleedin’ hearts.

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  59. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    Sorry Malcolm, it’s bullshit and you know it, no matter how much Guardian balderdash you choose to link.

    I work eight, nine, sometimes twelve hour days, I have to drive in my clapped out second hand car up to an hour to get to and from work, there are days when the only time I see my kids is to kiss them as they are sleeping before I leave for work and when I return.

    I don’t get twenty-six thousand pounds, nothing like it, and more to the point I don’t get it handed to me free, forcibly extracted out of the pockets of other working stiffs like me.

    Out of my income I have to pay school fees and health costs. Not a single penny do I receive from takpayers.

    Now I could take my wife and three kids, return to the UK, pick some pleasant cheap place to live, claim all the benefits I could. No doubt a kindly doctor could provide disability certs for me or the missus, I could get special needs for my kids, I could do some nixers on the side (no Malcolm I know nothing like that occurs in the humungously bloated British welfare state, every claimant is as pure as the driven snow), throw in three bottles of wine for a tenner from Tesco and their cheap pizza deals and I could have a life of fucking luxury.

    Don’t please insult my intelligence again by daring to suggest to me that welfare claimants in the UK are worse off than me, you see I actually live in the real world, I don’t experience it vicariously through Polly Toynbee columns.

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  60. Jimmy Sands (profile) says:

    Those who live on benefits in the UK today are by no stretch of the imagination “poor”, not by any rational definition of the word (and by that I don’t mean definitions provided by the multi-billion pound poverty lobby)

    Perhaps you could provide us with a rational definition of the word?

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  61. Alias (profile) says:

    I’m slightly surprised by those revelations, Harry – clapped-out car, long working hours and low pay, etc. I pictured you as a well-to-do overseas lawyer, sipping his iced Courvoisier from a sunny veranda while casting a cold eye on society’s delinquents and ne’er-do-wells.

    I pegged you as a libertarian but they generally proffer ethical egoism in one of its varieties, and your criticism of the welfare state supports that. But it isn’t in your self-interest to be critical of the welfare state if you are in an income bracket that renders you likely to require its support at some future point. Usually, libertarians (or those self-defining as such) belong to the higher income groups.

    I pegged Malcolm as an ethical utilitarian. I always liked that approach but I never had any faith in it. The acid test, I think, would be an opt-in tax. In contrast, I don’t like libertarianism but I do have (partial) faith in it.

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  62. Aw, shucks, Harry, …

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo

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  63. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    On my days off Alias I certainly enjoy a long cold drink on the veranda of my home and it is quite often sunny (it’s the rainy season now). The ne’rdowells and delinquents can be a lot of fun if I feel like letting off a bit of steam in the neighbourhood shebeen.

    And yes at heart I am a libertarian of sorts that’s why I choose to live the life I do, you see with the exception of my boss and my missus no one tells me what to do. I have minimal interaction with the state, other than to slip a copper a few bob when he flags me down for jumping a red light and I find I am free to live my life and raise my family how I like. I also get to choose where my kids go to school, what the school teaches them and if I need a doctor I pop down to the hospital and I pay for one at a time of my choosing not some government worker.

    If I went back to the UK to live on benefits I would have a materially better way of life but at what cost? I would now be a serf, beholden to the men from the ministry, dependent on the state to house me, feed me, raise my kids and I’d have to do as they say like a good little statist peon.

    No thanks, this life suits me better.

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  64. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    Ah Malcolm, now that I’ve finished work and can log on to YouTube I can see that you indeed posted what I thought you might have done.

    No correlation between that sketch and my life whatsoever but along with the unseasonal Scrooge reference earlier it simply convinces me that you’ve actually realized that you’re on to a loser.

    Point mine I think.

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  65. Now here’s a story (and, unlike most of what you find here, both true and uplifting).

    I know well, and have affection for this five-year-old boy, severely autistic. Last winter he couldn’t even relate to the weather, venture into the snow, express his feelings in any observable way. This year he has gained sufficient social and language skills, learned to say he feels cold, and to demand his “boat” — O.K., with luck and a lot of one-to-one he may soon learn the proper word, “sledge”.

    That comes at huge cost, mainly through day-to-day care by two loving and caring parents, whose relationship somehow survives this additional stress along with the insecurities of employment and income. There’s also been a significant input from the “authorities”, financing the specialist skills and training (and in training and resourcing the trainers).

    Harry deplores that as “statism”, a curious, and highly-political term. It originally meant, as near as dammit, “Anglicanism” (as opposed to non-conformist puritanism). Then it evolved into something like “Machiavellianism”; and finally achieved its present overtones from those opposing Roosevelt and the New Deal. Had FDR (with lend-lease) and then Truman (through Marshall Aid) not used the “statist” machinery at their disposal, would dictatorships have rendered the world less “statist”?

    If that’s the term, I’m happy to be “statist”, though I’d prefer to think of it as social democracy, collective combination, sharing the pain and the cost, co-operation. Not as punchy an expression, but I’m a woolly liberal who doesn’t have the advantage of seeing things in such pejorative, reductionist, antinomial oppositions (self-irony alert!).

    Happily Harry currently has his health and strength: if I need a doctor I pop down to the hospital and I pay for one at a time of my choosing not some government worker. A nice thought, though I’d wonder who paid for the medical training, who finances the wider medical infra-structure. In the UK, for example, when a private patient reaches the end of the gravy train private sector’s resources, the “patient” is quickly shuffled into the public sector. Far too often, far too late.

    Who pays for the long-term care of a severely handicapped or terminal patient, Harry? What about the insensate 15-year-old, trapped for “life” in an iron lung, whom I had to assess for an “educational development plan”? Is he entitled to a continued existence, albeit at “statist” expense? Why should we “statists” take an interest in his welfare and development? Shouldn’t we just snuff him out and save the expense?

    In which regard, I was taken by a small rush of reports about how private health insurance is working in Ireland (see Friday’s Irish Times). Ireland’s largest insurer has now hiked costs for the third time in 14 months. So consider this:

    VHI claimed the price hikes were unavoidable and said older customers “continue to be significantly loss-making”. It warned that “until such time as a comprehensive risk equalisation scheme is introduced which makes it as attractive to insure an older, sicker person as a younger, healthier person” the market would continue to segment.

    The insurer’s chief executive, Declan Moran, said the sole purpose of the increase was to cover its customers’ healthcare costs in the coming year. He said the company was losing money and the price increases were essential “to ensure the organisation is sustainable”.

    I read that to mean that the aim is to have as “personal” an estimate of costs as is actuarially possible. Presumably, eventually, with DNA-testing, each “customer” would be individually assessed, rated and costed. Nothing “statist”, of course. Except that means the insurance company is merely a channel for monies, creaming off a trifle to keep its managers in the style to which they have become accustomed. A national health service, of course, would share the costs and benefits more equitably, and be far more cost-efficient. But it would, alas, be irredeemably “statist”.

    Oddly enough, after all that, I tend to see that Margaret Thatcher had a point in the fuller version of her much-quoted interview: “… there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour.”

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  66. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    Wow, the concept of “concise” really passes you by, doesn’t it Malc?

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  67. Greenflag (profile) says:

    @ Harry Flashman ,

    ‘ I have minimal interaction with the state, other than to slip a copper a few bob when he flags me down for jumping a red light’

    This behaviour HF is also known as bribery of a public official .I’ll assume you are resident in some sunny clime where those at the top of the political hierarchy are more immune to charges of being ‘corrupt ‘?

    Here’s a nice report of how the elected authorities in a sunny clime of Florida deal with their particular ‘poor ” It’s called one law for the drug addled ‘poor’ and another for those who who though their salaries are paid for by the taxpayer would rather not pee in the cup .To see how a neo con insurance fraudster doubling as ‘Governor ‘ can lie publicly about Florida’s ‘poor ‘ check out the clip below .At 8 min 50 secs in the ‘fun ‘ starts.

    At 2 mins 30 secs in the ‘new ‘american class system is explained in pyramid format .

    The Haves
    The Soon to Haves
    The Somewhat later to Haves
    And the Soon to Haves (Geologically speaking ).

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/thu-february-2-2012-david-agus

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  68. Greenflag (profile) says:

    And here’s Colbert on the 22 ‘donors ‘ from the Superpacs who will decide the nomination and how Occupy Wall St got it wrong with the 1% when in fact it’s actually 7 millionths of 1%.

    http://www.colbertnation.com/full-episodes/thu-february-2-2012-christiane-amanpour

    At 3 minutes 25 secs in Colbert goes into the detail.

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  69. Jimmy Sands (profile) says:

    Interesting piece in the Daily Mail of all places.

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  70. Greenflag (profile) says:

    ‘Individuals with lower abilities may gravitate towards right-wing ideologies that maintain the status quo.
    It provides a sense of order,’ say the academics

    Well of course . What happens to the quo when there is no more status to it ? It simply looks for a new abode where it can regain or resurrect it’s former ‘status ‘. In real life it’s usually only a minority of the former ‘quo’ that manages to hold on to or regain their status and they are usually those few who have the greatest AQ (not IQ ) adaptability quotient to the new environment whatever it may be .

    Contrary to what is assumed by those who laud the ‘survival of the fittest ‘ credo it’s actually the survival of those who adapt quickest and best to a ‘new environment ‘ be it economic, political or social who do best . Thus ‘conservatives ‘ lose out eventually as they too often are left defending what can no longer be defended .

    In rapidly changing times ‘conservatism ‘ appeals and in conditions of mass hubris or economic or political meltdown it may seem to offer hope and stability and it does for a while . But it’s always looking back and not forward and thus trips over itself .

    ‘Ordnung muss Sein ‘ (There must be Order (societal) is an old Prussian or Victorian adage and in so far as it goes it makes perfect sense for if an when ‘anarchy ‘ breaks out or is loosed on the world anything may happen .We have the examples of the German Nazis and the Russian Stalinists and numerous other destructive ideologies to look back to as evidence of what can happen .

    In today’s anarchic world fiscal and currency markets the status quo has failed and the financial services model of capitalism has been seen to wreak havoc wherever it goes .
    It’s an ideology which ONLY works for an increasingly smaller section of societies everywhere and thus can only remain the ‘status quo’ if it can be seen to ‘defeat’ those who adhere to a wider embrace of what we call democracy .

    Sadly the ‘left’ has no answers as it’s established political representatives have long since been bought out by the financial services oligarchy in the UK , USA and Ireland .

    And thus in this in between time as the current financial services dominated capitalist ideology the political debate has become far removed from the real concerns of ordinary people be they Americans , British or Irish . Tens of millions of dollars are spent by ‘conservative’ political candidates each trying to out conservatise his /her opponent and each pleading for the return of a dream that never existed apart from the one foisted on the people by the creative denizens of Madison Ave.

    I have heard that Barnes & Nobles the USA’s biggest book store no longer sells the ‘Daily Mail’ .

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  71. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    You do realize the people who are being bribed are government officials? You don’t need to bribe private enterprise because they simply go on price.

    So you see why I dislike governments so much, they are invariably corrupt and incompetent.

    Odd how so many on the left adore government workers so much, but then they’re all so gosh durned illekchewal an’ all not like dumbass conservatives like me.

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  72. Jimmy Sands (profile) says:

    Where is this Shangri-La of incorruptible private sector workers?

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  73. Alias (profile) says:

    Greenie, so the world’s most successful business people are all socialists? I think there’s a hole in the theory somewhere…

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  74. Alias (profile) says:

    Incidentally, why is the The Daily Mail trolling its own readers? The world is getting odder…

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  75. Which is the more remarkable: the longevity of this thread, or the distance it has been dragged from its starting-point?

    Can a beach be adduced from a single grain of sand? Harry reckons so, by erecting an all-purpose philosophy of life, the universe and everything, from an isolated act of personal amorality.

    Harry, incidentally, brags of a criminality which is rapidly becoming impossible across western Europe: a GATSO cannot be bribed. In which regard, I’m rather proud of a public morality which means even an alleged (minor?) act of private corruption between consenting adults can lead to public disgrace and loss of public office among the greatest, most potent in the land.

    To end up somewhere adjacent to where this thread began, did we all get Maureen Dowd’s pungent piece (originally in the New York Times, but reprinted in yesterday’s Irish Times)? —

    The Republican establishment is chasing Newt around the country with a butterfly net. But when he looks into Callista’s bright blue eyes, he’s reminded of his adolescent dreams of exploring galaxies and saving civilization.

    When Barack is cocky and looks at Michelle, he might see her thinking: “You’re no messiah. Pick up your socks.” But when Newt is cocky and looks at Callista, he sees her thinking: “You are the messiah. We’ll have your socks bronzed.”

    Unlike Harry, I’ll try to obey the law, fulfil my civic commitments, and pick up my own socks. Meanwhile, were I building from the precise to the universal, adducing my personal beach, I’d see the private sector going to hell in a handcart — “Sir” Richard’s VirginMedia for much of yesterday having had its third outage in four days, and its umpteenth in recent weeks.

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  76. Greenflag (profile) says:

    @ Jimmy Sands ,

    ‘Where is this Shangri-La of incorruptible private sector workers?’

    Wall St , City of London , Dame St and at oil company head offices and locations all over the world not to mention in the 100 plus off shore tax havens and crown colonies not excluding Alderney and Sark and Guernsey and of course in consideration of our Irish wanna be incorruptibles there is the Isle of Man where an estimated 11 billion is stashed away from the Irish sorry ECB sponsored taxman.

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  77. Greenflag (profile) says:

    @ harry flashman,

    ‘You don’t need to bribe private enterprise because they simply go on price.’

    Priceless Harry -truly priceless. And if you believe that then you’ll surely also believe that the moon is made of cheese . You may also believe the doctrine that low interest rates spur faster economic growth in free market economies . If you are looking around right now don’t open your eyes as under the aegis of ‘financial services led capitalism ‘ the only growth is in speculation and ever more financial corruption by the oligarchy of banksters that rule in Washington DC , London , Berlin,Paris and Dublin.

    ‘So you see why I dislike governments so much, they are invariably corrupt and incompetent.’

    Some much more so than others . Alas in many developing countries government corruption is even worse than in developed countries . You might want to look at
    http://www.transparency.org/publications/annual_report where ironically even a developing country such as Botswana (30 th least corrupt ) is rated as less corrupt than Italy (67th) or Greece (78th). The most corrupt countries are Afghanistan ,Myanmar and Somalia all of course countries which are noted for their lack of governance and in the case of one -Afghanistan it’s kleptocracy is only held in power with American money and weaponry-albeit for fear of something worse i.e Taliban tyranny.

    Ironically its in the world’s most socialist countries or social democratic states such as Denmark , Sweden , Netherlands that corruption is at it’s lowest .FYI Ireland rates a credible / 14th -The UK is 20th and the USA which has been declining for a decade or more rates 22nd

    Once more

    ‘So you see why I dislike governments so much, they are invariably corrupt and incompetent.

    I take it that you at least understand that if you applied the same standard to the private financial services sector your ‘dislike ‘ would bypass the richter scale ? Otherwise I’ll have to conclude that your ears are not hearing what your closed eyes are not seeing and vice versa;)

    Look on the bright side HF . You could be in Poland or the Ukraine where the sun don’t shine and ‘poverty’ comes as ice in the blood.

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  78. Greenflag (profile) says:

    @ Alias,

    ‘so the world’s most successful business people are all socialists?’

    I guess by your standards Warren Buffet must be a socialist given his desire to pay more taxes also Bill Gates etc. You might think that Alias but then I’d beg to differ . But they’re both probably savvy enough to understand that the current financial services chaos could end up with another and next time terminal economic collapse which will render ‘paper money’ all over the world not worth the paper it’s written on and we know what a world that would give us eh ? And if we don’t we should :(

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  79. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    You do realise Greenie that half a dozen of Obama’s closest political advisers also pay less tax than Buffet’s secretary don’t you?

    Oh but it’s ok when they do it, isn’t it?

    By the way not sure why you don’t understand the difference between paying the market rate in a private commercial exchange, which is perfectly legal, and paying bribes to a government official in order to get preferential treatment, which is illegal.

    Government workers are lazy, inefficient, often corrupt and overpaid, it’s a fact of life old boy, there may be many in the private sector to whom the same applies but I have the choice not to pay money to them.

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  80. Jimmy Sands (profile) says:

    Harry,

    You misunderstood the argument. You appear to be suggesting the private sector workers never take bribes. You’re clearly unfamiliar with the utilities sector.

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  81. Greenflag (profile) says:

    ‘You do realise Greenie that half a dozen of Obama’s closest political advisers also pay less tax than Buffet’s secretary don’t you?’

    I don’t but you could be right .I’m sure they would have the money to pay for the expensive tax advice that the Mitt Romney’s and Gingrich’s etc can also afford and that Warren Buffet’s secretary can’t .

    ‘but it’s ok when they do it, isn’t it?’

    It’s legal as is Romney’s .If you wish to interpret legal as okay thats your business . I would have a different view .

    ‘Government workers are lazy, inefficient, often corrupt and overpaid, it’s a fact of life ‘

    As the transparency international report points out there is a league table that quantifies the problem .

    http://www.transparency.org/publications/annual_report

    While there is a perception of some truth in your comment above I would suggest that these perceived deficencies can be remedied .What can’t be remedied is human nature in the absence of government . We can be certain that in a world without government and with only market forces ruling the roost you can be sure that the world’s poorest would never get an education for they could never afford it and those who happen to be sick and poor would be left to die in the streets and the rich would have to spend much of their wealth on paying for their physical existence by employing the most expensive armed guards they can afford .

    I believe it was Napoleon who made the astute observation that if it were’nt for ‘religion’ the masses of poor would have no reason NOT to kill the rich .

    I’d add the 21st century update that if it were’nt for Government ( yes even the most inefficient and corrupt ones to a degree) that Napoleon’s dictum could even apply to secular societies where the relatively poor and the newly emisserated ‘middle classes’ have less and less reason these days to ‘believe’ that their governments actually represents them and NOT the world’s banksters !

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  82. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Alias

    ‘…so the world’s most successful business people are all socialists?’

    Yes.

    Or at least, they owe their great wealth to a kind of socialism that works for them.

    I don’t think I’d call it socialist, though. I’d call it a powerful nanny state for the rich.

    Name one billionaire that doesn’t owe his/her wealth to massive public subsidy or procurement, either directly, or to the industry in which he/she has amassed those billions.

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  83. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Harry

    Reading your posts, I can’t help but reflect that, a hundred years ago, people in your position joined the IWW in their millions. It’s remarkable that, though comparatively poorer and less-educated, overworked wage slaves used to know exactly whose boot was on their throats.

    Today, the same demographic that joined the Wobblies and won the victories that made 20th century America possibly the best place in history to be working class, are joining the Tea Party. The boot is back on their throats, but they’re confused as to who’s wearing it, and coming up with some crazy answers.

    From Wobblies to Teabaggers in the space of a century. It’s all gone a bit Weimar.

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  84. Alias (profile) says:

    Greenie & Billy, it wasn’t a statement – just noting the contradiction that great capitalists must be, according to the preceding argument, socialists. If such was the case, Goldman Sachs – those supreme capitalists – are on Greenie’s side despite his incessant chastisement.

    Billy, what state subsidy did the newest entrant to the multi-billionaire, Mr Facebook, receive? You wouldn’t be reading this post now if the state appointed a ‘workers’ committee’ to do what Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did unaided.

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  85. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Alias

    ‘…what state subsidy did the newest entrant to the multi-billionaire, Mr Facebook, receive? You wouldn’t be reading this post now if the state appointed a ‘workers’ committee’ to do what Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did unaided.’

    A perfect example. We wouldn’t be on the internet now had it not been for the US government pouring billions into research for forty-odd years, mostly channeled through the Pentagon into places like MIT.

    Computers, supercomputers and the internet came out of that long-term, speculative and utterly vast investment by a dynamic state sector. The private sector has never, and would never devote such resources, for so long, with no guarantee of any outcome.

    Certainly, there’s a capitalist fringe to the economic system, so, when the state sector has developed a new technology to the point where it’s ready for market, at THAT point (and not a moment sooner) the private sector comes in.

    So yes, hurrah for Facebook and Apple, and all the fancy things they do at the marketing end of things, but they are just the private beneficiaries who bring to market a product developed in the public sector.

    I honestly can’t think of a major technological breakthrough that didn’t come out of a dynamic state sector. Everyone knows this, except economists.

    I know that’s quite different from the private-good-public-bad fanaticism they teach in most respectable Economics departments, but can you think of an example of any major breakthrough that didn’t come out of the state sector, state subsidy or state procurement?

    The public sector gave us the internet. The private sector fills it with porn.

    Personally, I think there’s a role for both. What there’s no room for, is private-good-public-bad ideological fanaticism.

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  86. Greenflag (profile) says:

    ‘@ alias ,

    ‘just noting the contradiction that great capitalists must be, according to the preceding argument, socialists.’

    ???? You may be the only one who noted the eh ‘contradiction’

    There’s a major difference between the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Henry Fords and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world and Goldman Sachs -The former actually create and develop products and services which most people would agree are useful to society in the main -we may quibble a bit over privacy matters in relation to Facebook and some others .

    Goldman Sachs and other major financial services institutions developed products and services which were so worthless that they even advised their own employees to sell these products and services back to their clients when it became clear that they were worthless .

    Goldman Sachs and the other financial services institutions which were once too big to fail are still too big to fail . They should be broken up years ago . They will be sooner or later .

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  87. Greenflag (profile) says:

    @billy pilgrim,

    ‘What there’s no room for, is private-good-public-bad ideological fanaticism.’

    Indeed BP – Both Alias and HF and a few others to a lesser extent are still hooked on Thatcherism and indeed have even gone beyond ‘Thatcherism ‘ in their fanatical devotion to financial services dominated capitalism . Even Maggie understood the English people would never accept the American system of health care for the rich and insured and sweet fanny adams for the remaining 50 million .

    It’s more than a little ironic in these days of Dickensian ‘revivalism ‘ that TV is drooling in the Victorian era with Downton Abbey and Fagin has been reincarnated as an Irish ‘traveller or Pikey ‘ enslaving down and out English and Eastern Europeans in the quest to pick more than a pocket or two .

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  88. Alias (profile) says:

    “???? You may be the only one who noted the eh ‘contradiction’”

    Your reply to this:

    “Individuals with lower abilities may gravitate towards right-wing ideologies that maintain the status quo. It provides a sense of order,’ say the academics.”

    Here:

    “Contrary to what is assumed by those who laud the ‘survival of the fittest ‘ credo it’s actually the survival of those who adapt quickest and best to a ‘new environment ‘ be it economic, political or social who do best . Thus ‘conservatives ‘ lose out eventually as they too often are left defending what can no longer be defended .”

    Hence, my reply: “Greenie, so the world’s most successful business people are all socialists?”

    If “individuals with lower abilities… gravitate towards right-wing ideologies” (or “conservatives” as you refer to them) then the most successfull capitalists/business people must all be closet socialists since, if they weren’t. then they wouldn’t have the higher abilities that are required to be extremely successful in a highly competitive environment.

    Hence: “I think there’s a hole in the theory somewhere…”

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  89. Alias (profile) says:

    Billy, I’ll leave that post for Harry Flashman to get his teeth into. But don’t forget the Irish state sector’s greatest innovation: the shovel that requires 6 road workers to hold upright.

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  90. Greenflag (profile) says:

    @alias ,

    The hole is in your head ;) Contrary to your black and white vision of politics i.e right v left or capitalist v socialist there is a wide spectrum across which various societies have to operate given their local conditions . It’s not a case of either or and the writer of the original article makes it clear that while many conservatives are ‘dim’ they are not all dim in the same way and that indeed some are quite bright . Too quick an adaptation to a new environment can be just as risky as too slow or a refusal to adapt . The ‘environmental ‘ cahnge be it in economics or politics or climatic may be just a short term blip and then those who have leap aboard the rescue boat find out it’s the Titanic .

    Just think of all those thousands of bright young engineering and math graduates who lured by Wall St and the City of London jumped aboard the ‘financial services ‘ boat as the path to easy millions and who have now been left behind by the eh ‘rapture’

    The hole in the bucket of financial services capitalism has been leaking for several years now and there’s no sign that any of the banksters have even noticed it much less heeded any of the lessons . I guess some will only learn the hard way when enough blood has been spilt.:(

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  91. Alias (profile) says:

    Greenie, thorn in my side, I’m aware it is not as it seems. I’m also aware that the cited ‘study’ conflates social and economic attitudes when referring to right and left divisions they should be entirely seperate, and also conflates the role of the state with said former conflations. Not all socialists advocate in big government, and not all capitalists advocate small government. Most folks here would consider Noam Chomsky to be a Markist but he is actually a left-wing libertarian. Such formerly rigid doctrines have long been served à la carte, and most now pick-and-choose a bit of this and a bit of that. Socialists, for example, long ago cottoned on that the state didn’t have to control the means of production in order to disbribute wealth more equally – all they had to do was tax the wealth creators and spend the wealth that, in their black hearts, they knew no ‘workers’ co-operative’ could ever create.

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  92. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    ‘Wealth creators…’

    Lol!

    Check this out. It’ll give you a laugh.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ5B0BKTkIY

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  93. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    “HF and a few others to a lesser extent are still hooked on Thatcherism and indeed have even gone beyond ‘Thatcherism ‘ in their fanatical devotion to financial services dominated capitalism .”

    As usual Greenie you haven’t been paying attention, please point me to any post that I have ever written which indicates a “devotion to financial services dominated capitalism”, you know what? I’ll save you the time, you won’t find any.

    My contempt for those financial institutions that failed and were then propped up by having their losses socialized by government idiots knows no bounds, I regard them as little more than British Leyland in pinstripe suits.

    Just for the record the biggest funders of the US Democrat party of which you are so fond is Wall Street, and right up in the lead is Goldman Sachs, Obama is so deep in their pockets he is claiming squatters’ rights.

    Time and again over the past forty years US financial institutions have fecked up big time, whether in the Argentina crash or the following one in Russia, and they have invariably been bailed out by the government, more often than not Democrat-run governments.

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  94. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    Billy

    “I honestly can’t think of a major technological breakthrough that didn’t come out of a dynamic state sector.”

    Just off the top of my head this morning with only my first cup of coffee to rely on I’ll go with electricity, powered flight, the internal combustion engine, steam power, anti-biotics, telephones, spinning jenny, rubber tyres, anaesthetics, selective breeding, steel, railways, do I need to go on?

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  95. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    …compass, radium, printing, refrigeration, TV and video, photography, radio, horseshoe, keel, assembly-lines, clocks….

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  96. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    However I’m more interested in Billy’s analogy with the Wobblies and the Tea Party, I suspect judging by his allusion to Weimar that Billy’s ignorance of the Tea Party is as woefully inadequate as mine is of the Wobblies, do you believe the nonsense in the media that the Tea Party is some sort of proto-fascist organisation Billy?

    Surely the progression from one to the other is perfectly logical, the Wobblies I assume objected to the raw deal that the ordinary working man was getting from society’s stitch up between the government and their crony capitalist friends? Did not the Wobblies seek a fairer division of the burden between the elites and the ordinary working man? Did the Wobblies not believe that an arduous burden was being placed on the working man and his family by the government and the rich elites? Were not the Wobblies demonized by the wealthy establishment and the media?

    Welcome to the Tea Party.

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  97. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Harry

    I won’t go through them all, it’d take forever. Suffice to say that none of the examples you give were developed or brought to market without either direct state funding or subsidy, state procurement (ie the state creating a market where otherwise there would be none) or artificial market conditions created by the state.

    I’ll take a few examples.

    Electricity: based on the work of scientists in the university (ie state funded) sector like Ohm, Faraday and Siemens. Eventually brought to market by Edison and Tesla, private sector patent-gangsters. Electrical infrastructure (power lines, interconnectors, sub stations etc) is publicly funded, publicly secured, and often, publicly maintained too.

    Powered flight: It’s true that the Wright brothers didn’t have state funding, but practically every advance in aviation since then has taken place within the state sector – the US postal service was key, but usually, it has been through the military. Left to the private sector, aeroplanes today would look not much different from those at Kitty Hawk.

    The internal combustion engine: Are you referring to the concept, and earliest rudimentary example – that of Huygens, paid for by the King of France – or Otto’s more recognisable breakthrough, with research funded by the French government, via the Paris World Fair?

    Antibiotics: I believe the first antibiotic was discovered by Ehrlich – i.e. within the German state sector. We owe penicillin to the British war effort – or at least its application. Though Fleming was working in the state sector when he discovered it, too.

    Telephones: invented by Alexander Graham Bell of Boston University.

    Compass: Invented by the Chinese military almost 3000 years ago.

    Radium: discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie at the University of Paris.

    Refrigeration: Cullen, Franklin, Faraday – you name them, all the research was carried out in the public sector, for 200 years, before refrigeration became marketable.

    Clocks: overwhelmingly, we owe mechanical clocks to the medieval church – which was pretty much equivalent to the state sector at the time.

    And so on.

    The irony is that the only thing that makes it worthwhile for the private sector to even try to invent anything, is the patent system; but you need a robust state to enforce patents.

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  98. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    ‘…judging by his allusion to Weimar…’

    Actually, the reference to Weimar was meant as a rebuke to the left. In America today, there are many millions of people who have real grievances, who are angry and who have every right to be. They are people who have worked hard, who have bought into everything they were told to buy into, and who find that they’re not getting the rewards they were promised.

    They’re sitting in their cars, on gridlocked freeways, commuting to jobs they hate, earning wages that that haven’t risen in over thirty years, missing their families, who they don’t get to spend much time with any more. These are the kind of people that the left ought to be organising, as the Wobblies did a century ago; but instead, they’re listening to Rush Limbaugh tell them they’re being smashed by rich liberals on the coasts, or illegal immigrants, or the government.

    It’s utterly crazy. I wouldn’t press the analogy too far, but much of what I describe above was true of Weimar Germany too. If an honest demagogue were to emerge, it’s scary to think what might happen.

    ‘do you believe that the Tea Party is some sort of proto-fascist organisation Billy?’

    I believe it’s a cynically-conceived organisation that is deflecting the attention of millions of people with real grievances away from the source of those grievances, and towards scapegoats and strawmen.

    ‘…the Wobblies I assume objected to the raw deal that the ordinary working man was getting from society’s stitch up between the government and their crony capitalist friends?’

    Yes, but they understood that the state was something that working people could use to protect themselves from the capitalists. You see, there’s a crucial difference between the state and private tyrannies (which is what corporations are) – a flaw, from the point of view of private power. It is that the state is potentially influenceable by the population, whereas private tyrannies (corporations) have no such flaw. And private power knows it, which is why it spends so much money buying the political system. (This year’s presidential election is predicted to top $2 billion in spending.) It’s important that the population is kept far away from state power, and indeed are propagandised into hating the state. That way, the elites make sure that the state works for them, and only for them.

    The problem with many in the Tea Party is that they don’t understand who their enemy really is; indeed, they are working overtime against their own interests, and to protect the interests of their enemy.

    The contrast with the Wobblies is stark; and as I say, it is also a real failure of the left.

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  99. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    Some pretty tenuous links there which take us far from your original very specific statement that only dynamic state sectors produced technological breakthroughs.

    Of course government will exploit technological advances, usually for military purposes (and state security is one of the few fields that even the crustiest conservative will accept is part of a government’s role), however that’s a huge leap from saying it takes the government to invent things rather than private individuals who may or may not have tenuous links to the government.

    Pasteur, Stephenson, Edison, Brunel, Babbage, Bell, Fleming, Diesel, Whitney, etc etc carried out their work as private individuals usually to earn money rather than as government bureaucrats working under ministerial direction.

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  100. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    “It is that the state is potentially influenceable by the population, whereas private tyrannies (corporations) have no such flaw.”

    Surely the very beauty of the market system and the reason people like me support it is that the market, the people, have absolute power over private corporations.

    Once a private corporation is abandoned by those who feed it it dies and rightly so. Without popular support (through purchasing) a private corporation is utterly powerless, the same can not be said for governments.

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