Sunday, February 7, 2010

The fictional 'center'

Greetings good citizen,

What better day than Superbowl Sunday to have a, can’t really call it a discussion, I guess we’ll have to refrain from labeling this exercise…

Anyhoo, I’ve come across another article that raises the thorny issue of what politics has to do with economics (or, if you prefer, vice-versa.) A politician can’t force an employer (at least a specific one) to hire you or to pay you a living wage…(which casts the ‘minimum wage’ issue in a rather different light, doesn’t it?) So why are so many of us inclined to blame the president for a lousy economy?

Why are congressmen quick to stick a feather in their hat (take credit) for ‘bringing home the bacon’ (commonly referred to as ‘pork’ when the so-called bacon goes to another district…even if you got yours!)

Not that this particular article takes such a ‘holistic’ view of the subject (mostly because it was written by an ‘academic economist’ with no practical experience in how a ‘real’ economy works…albeit, that didn’t stop the NY Times from publishing this piece.)

To be fair, even economists employed by prestigious investment firms are clueless as to how a ‘real’ economy operates, their minds so filled with bogus theories and models which still include slavery as part of the equation. (That which you are forced to do against your own self-interest can hardly be considered ‘free-will’. It is here that we find the connection between ‘economics’ and, er, to be succinct, politics/the law.)

This adds yet another dimension to this ‘investigation’ into the connection between politics and economics.

What you need to be mindful of here good citizen is who gets to write the law as well as who benefits from the manner in which they are written…let us not forget who gets what for playing along…(the ‘politics’ part of the puzzle.)

Ironically, there is no way the average individual can come away from this examination without concluding the system itself is deeply flawed as well as badly broken.

That said, onward with tonight’s offering

Economic View
Why Politics Is Stuck in the Middle

Published: February 6, 2010

MARKET competition, under the proper circumstances, has the power to make a business better serve its customers. Cellphone companies, for example, compete via cheaper prices, clearer connections and better apps. Political competition, though no less vigorous, is conducted on very different terms — and often ends up stifling innovation instead of encouraging it.

When viewed through an economist’s lens, the quest for voter approval helps explain some recent developments in domestic politics, including the stalling of health care reform and the proposed freeze on the federal government’s discretionary spending.

Economists approach political competition with a simple but potent hypothesis called the “median voter theorem.” Anthony Downs, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, proposed the idea in his 1957 book, “An Economic Theory of Democracy.” Essentially, the idea is this: Any politician who strays too far from voters at the philosophical center will soon be out of office. [Um, how many of you see that the ‘philosophical center’ is so vaguely defined as to be non-existent? Worse is the reality that whoever defines what that center is, controls that value! Which is to ask, ‘does the center even know what the center is?’ Obviously not!]

In fact, there is a dynamic that pushes politicians to embrace the preferences of the typical or “median” voter, who sits squarely in the middle of public opinion. A significant move to either the left or the right would open the door for a rival to take a more moderate stance, win the next election and change the agenda. Politicians will respond to this dynamic, whether they are power-seeking demagogues or more benevolent types who use elected office to help the world. [Hold this idea up against our own ‘practical experience’ and what do you have? A war that not only continues to be funded, but is being escalated by the very man we elected to stop it! The nation ‘overwhelmingly’ wants this ‘war of choice’ terminated BUT the ‘analysts’ in Washington/Wall Street have determined that a totally fictional ‘centrist’ would choose otherwise! So our politicians feel ‘safe’ ignoring the mandate of a vast majority of the people that apparently are NOT in the damned ‘center’! Lost? This brings us full circle with the notion that whoever defines the center gets to determine what the center wants, regardless of what the rest of us vote for/desire!]

When it comes to the big issues, voters at the midpoint usually get the policies, if not always the exact outcomes, they want. In the federal budget, the largest line items include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and military spending — all very popular programs. The interest on the national debt is mounting because we don’t like paying higher taxes now for all those benefits, so our government borrows to postpone the pain. [‘Our’ government? Does this guy have a mouse in his pocket? Didn’t we just get through determining that since we obviously aren’t ‘in the center’ the government would be foolish to pay attention to what we want…which works out real well for those oligarchs who believe democracy is a ‘bad idea’. Speaking of which, how many of you are wondering ‘how do we change this’? Voting certainly isn’t the answer, it doesn’t matter what/who you vote for if only the (fictitious) ‘center’ matters…]

Upon his election, President Obama stepped into a world already full of political constraints. He won the White House and significant Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate — yet even if American voters were tired of the Republican Party, it’s not clear that their underlying opinions had changed very much. [Talk about alarming! We haven’t seen a strong shift away from Republican values because the Republicans are still making the decisions! The ‘dolts’ we elected have no idea how to behave like Democrats! Which is just as incredible as asserting these people can’t read (we know they don’t but they are supposedly capable of it) nor do they understand what they see on television! (Or so we are supposed to believe.)

Correctly or not, most Americans have failed to embrace the Democratic health care plans. And ever since the Republicans won the special Senate election in Massachusetts, even the Democrats in Congress have stalled on the legislation. It now appears that much of the initial support was thin. [Um, I probably should have mentioned this earlier but Mr. Cowen is a noted ‘conservative’. Um, as I have commented earlier, I had the polls to myself when I cast my vote for Martha Coakley although my tiny town on the north shore of Massachusetts usually votes red. Rich people always live near the ocean. Which is to point out that I live on the western border of my town.]

Senate Democrats, for instance, could overcome a Republican filibuster through a parliamentary process known as reconciliation, but they are waiting, evidently out of fear that voters aren’t with them on this issue. [Flip that on its head and you have Republicans ‘hoping’ they are right! Which is to point out the extreme foolishness of anyone trying to hold onto an elected position by defying the will of the people who put them in office…but that’s what’s happening and it should tell you something. What should it tell you? The ballot box is broken for anything larger than a local election; that’s what it tells you.]

Many people are increasingly worried about deficits. That may have led Mr. Obama to announce a freeze on nonmilitary discretionary spending, and yet this freeze refuses to target major, popular budget items like Social Security. The public seems to want the self-image of being tough on spending without giving up the goodies. President Obama may well know better, but he is doing his best to oblige, if only to prevent a Republican landslide this November. [The Republicans couldn’t win in a landslide if they were the only ones running since they are directly responsible for the current crisis that has been forty years in the making.]

The point here is not to belittle or praise the president, but to point out that his hands are tied. The biggest leftward move in American economic policy occurred during the Roosevelt and Truman years, when the Democrats had the upper hand for five consecutive presidential terms. Because of depression and war, people were looking for real change. Competitive forces in politics were relatively weak, and the Democrats had the chance to make their policies stick. [It worked so well Republican’s had to run as Democrats to gain office. That seems to be our problem now, Republicans have to run as Democrats to win, yet they still behave like Republicans! Not so sure that’s going to work out too well once the dust settles.]

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on campaign spending also comes into clearer focus through the median voter theorem. The court ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections. Critics fear that the political influence of corporations will grow, but some academic specialists in campaign finance aren’t so sure. [Um, would that ‘academic specialist’ crack be an opaque reference to himself? Understand only one in five voters are registered Republicans, sadly, even less than that are rich and the Republican Party is the party of the wealthy. The conservatives are greatly outnumbered but their pockets are much deeper than those of the ‘paycheck peasants’ are.]

For all the anecdotal evidence, it’s hard to show statistically that money has a large and systematic influence on political outcomes. That is partly because politicians cannot stray too far from public opinion. (In part, it is also because interest groups get their way on many issues by supplying an understaffed Congress with ideas and intellectual resources, not by running ads or making donations.) It is quite possible that the court’s decision won’t affect election results very much. [Se habla ‘Swift boats’? Imagine Swift boats times ten! Most candidates wouldn’t run to save their families the humiliation of having their name dragged through the mud! That’s the kind of ‘free speech’ the Supremes are ‘protecting’! Lies don’t have to be true to be effective.]

Of course, the median voter theorem is far from a complete explanation of politics. Sometimes politicians lead public opinion and talk voters into accepting new ideas, as when President Bill Clinton promoted Nafta. And voters often favor conflicting or contradictory policies, like wanting to pull troops out of Iraq but also not wanting Iraq to explode into chaos. [Okay, Conservative idiots love to play up the idea that Bill Clinton initiated NAFTA but it wasn’t Billy Boy at all, it was dear old St. Ronnie! Here’s another piece of ‘political economics’ that defy rational explanation! Nobody liked it but the conservatives rammed it through a Democratic presidency, not that ‘the man who killed welfare’ was much of a Democrat.]

Finally, most people aren’t very well informed about politics and can be downright irrational or stubborn, which is another reason that political competition isn’t always as beneficial as economic competition. [We an only guess not wanting what is good for our oligarchs is considered irrational or confused with ‘stubbornness’ when it comes to political compromise.]

THE median voter theorem doesn’t predict that the legacy of the Obama administration will be a wash. But it does imply that we might find the most important achievements in areas that don’t always linger on the front page. For instance, the president’s ideas on education, which involve accountability and charter schools and pay for performance, may please the American public and thus make their way into policy. And because education transforms the knowledge and interests of the median voter for generations to come, such acceptance could make for a lot of other improvements.

If you’re looking for change to believe in, and change that will last, the odds are best when political competition is pushing the world in your direction.

Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Obviously it doesn’t hurt to be the one defining what the political center is either! Especially when it comes to goofball theories that conservatives dream up!

What I wanted to point out here is how ‘empty’ or devoid of reason this article is…because if you’re a conservative, you don’t need proof or reason, it is merely because you say it is so!

Which doesn’t explain how this piece made it into that ‘Liberal rag’ the Sunday New York Times…unless it is not nearly as ‘liberal’ as the conservative pinheads claim it is…

Yes, good citizen, I came looking for a good argument but being a conservative means never having to defend your beliefs…we can leave aside the fact that their beliefs are generally indefensible…

Back to the subject at hand…how are politics and economics related? You already know the answer. Economics are pure politics, in fact without economics there wouldn’t be any politics, which sort of overstates the situation but there it is.

If it weren’t for some people constantly trying to ‘get over’ on everybody else we wouldn’t need politics or the political games that provide cover for weasely behavior. Um, simply put politics exist to lend respectability to the reprehensible. It is the, I really hesitate to call it ‘art’ but it is in its own way, of obtaining permission for that which is objectionable. This is why law runs the entire gamut from the obvious to the sublime. It is the laws that make the most sense that provide the justification for laws that make little sense.

I am no fan of lawlessness (although I am a big fan of Anarchy, whose true meaning is ‘rules without rulers!’) So while I am no fan of law as it is currently practiced that doesn’t mean I despise the law.

Nor am I much a fan of self-serving conservative rhetoric.

Thanks for letting me inside your head,


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