Teabaggerism: an infantile disorder

David Kennedy says what I’ve been thinking:

It’s hard to take in the breathtaking irony of the right holding Obama responsible for the oil well disaster. You’ve been accusing him of being a socialist: clearly a word whose meaning you don’t understand. Socialism is the state ownership of the means of production. If Obama were a socialist and pursuing socialist policies, the state would own the well. He’s not a socialist. The state does not own the well. BP owns the well. That is what you want. This is what you got. This is what you say you like. Until it doesn’t work for you. Then you want the government you hate and hobble to “fix it.” Infants.

Comments

  1. Thomas says

    That's not a very good definition of socialism, even if it's the conventional one. Ownership is a more complicated concept than that definition admits.

    In any case, Obama says it's his responsibility, and I don't see why we shouldn't take him at his word. I mean, except for the fact that his incompetence in responding isn't favorable to your politics.

  2. Warren Terra says

    Thomas, what about Obama's response strikes you as incompetent, other than its public portrayal and communication? What should the government – or, indeed, anyone – be doing to help with the existing disaster in the gulf (as opposed to predicting this one or preventing the next one) that they're not already doing?

    There are some genuine issues about the government response, but the ones I've seen were mostly minor or irrelevant to fixing the spill itself. The Coast Guard – that is, our government – has apparently acted in collusion with or at the behest of BP to keep some people away from some of the cleanup and mitigation efforts, including people who wanted to report on the situation (I do not know whether the people had any official media credentials). And I'm worried about the apparent lack of regulation of the chemical dispersants. But it seems to me that as far as the actual, continuing spill goes, everything suggested by anyone with any expertise has been tried or is being tried (and, thus far, every attempt has failed or is failing, except the one method seen as most likely to eventually work, the drilling of relief wells, a process that will take months yet).

    Failures of corporate practice and government regulation helped get us into this mess, and – given that the defects of the MMS were well known – Obama's failure to address those defects in his first sixteen months seem like fertile grounds for criticism. But you criticized the way he's responded to the disaster, and – sadly – I'm not aware of anything that could usefully have been done differently.

  3. Bux says

    You miss the whole point of what most economic conservatives (teabaggers, etc.) stand for. As I posted in a comment several posts ago, it’s more accurate to say that government is inefficient and the private sector is efficient, but somehow liberals think we're saying that government is bad and the private sector is good. I say let’s don’t put one federal dollar towards cleaning up this mess. I'm not looking for a government handout or solution here (but some leadership skills would be nice). Let’s make BP clean up this mess. Unfortunately government (especially Obama’s government) doesn’t know how to get out of the way and let that happen. Even if the government wasn't spending your tax money to clean up the mess, they have such an elaborate beauracracy in place that it’s impossible for anything to get acommplished. While the pencil-pushers in D.C. are reviewing paperwork, people on the ground want to get this thing done. Like James Carville said, they’re dying down there. This is just a foretaste of what we can expect from Obama’s government sponsored programs (health care, etc.)…incompetence and inefficiency. Change we can believe in right?

    But just to be clear, are you suggesting Mark that IF Obama's government did happen to run this oil well that they would have done a better job of cleaning up and handling this situation? Is this the logical conclusion you would have us go to? Could you really believe such a preposterous notion?

    Ignorance on the part of the left as to the conservative viewpoint never ceases to amaze me.

  4. MobiusKlein says

    Thomas, please distinguish between responsibility and causality.

    My children, not at the age of majority yet, are my responsibility. If they damage something, I have to pay for it.

    But they still (hypothetically speaking here) caused said damage, even though it's my responsibility to clean it up.

    BP caused it, but the US Government led by Obama has to clean it up.

  5. Grumpy says

    Is this about Rep. Michelle Bachmann criticizing Obama for failing to commandeer boats?

  6. Warren Terra says

    Bux,

    government is inefficient and the private sector is efficient

    This is certainly the dogma, but that doesn't make it true. Scott Adams has certainly made a fortune by presenting an exaggerated satire of private-sector corporate inefficiency, and (whatever their merits) the success of his comics in the free market tells us that they resonate with a large audience. Have you paid an attention at all to the constant stream of exposes on private-sector practices on Wall Street (or, in one of m favorite examples, in banking in Iceland) over the last couple of years?

    somehow liberals think we’re saying that government is bad and the private sector is good.

    Liberals think that government exists to serve the needs of the people, and that it's possible to use government power for the benefit of the people. Seemingly, many conservatives believe that no good can come from (civilian) government power. Many liberals – and many conservatives – believe that the private sector is a collection of small businesses and corporations that exist to benefit their stockholders (and, to a disproportionate degree, their senior executives), and that any benefits the private sector generates for its employees and customers are incidental; indeed, such external benefits may be inefficiencies to be eliminated in the pursuit of higher dividends and executive bonuses. Arguably, government is at least meant to be good; the private sector isn't.

    Re your other points, BP is already on the hook to clean this up (although it's always worth mentioning that it's the conservatives in Congress that want to cap BP's liability). But the idea that the government should just back off and let BP do everything is just silly. And what you've got against pencil-pushers, I don't know. While bureaucracy can obviously be destructive, how would you propose that we can have effective and accountable government without paperwork? Should we just ship pallets of money to Louisiana and hope for the best, as we did with Iraq?

    And what incompetence and inefficiency is it, precisely, that bothers you in the response to this disaster? Everyone is upset that this spill is happening, and that it hasn't been sealed. A lot of people are upset that Obama is President. Seemingly, a lot of people are conflating these two sources of irritation without actually figuring out a relation between the two.

  7. Ed Whitney says

    The greatest economic efficiency in our history was during World War II, when the government simply took command of the entire economy, converting Ford auto plants into factories that produced bombers and fighter planes and tanks and jeeps. The government said what raw materials would be requisitioned and specified the uses to which they would be put. The war had to be won, the materials to fight it had to be produced and produced quickly; the government saw to it that the required production and delivery and distribution were achieved. If the private sector had been left to its own devices, Germany and Japan would have been the winners. If you want efficiency, central command is the way to go.

  8. Thomas says

    Ed, thanks for the confession.

    Someone should ask David Kennedy where he stands. Is private ownership what he wants, or does he reject it? Because if he wants it–as he says Obama does–well, he's got it too, doesn't he? Is it too much to ask academics to think before sending their emails around? Are they even capable of a bit of intellectual reflection? I'm guessing the answer is no.

    Warren, does Obama know yet whether the head of MMS was fired or resigned? Look, it's not my job to fix this problem. It's my job to note that this idiot isn't fixing the problem. (You do remember how this works don't you? If you've forgotten, read Mark's archives from the last few years.)

  9. MobiusKlein says

    Thomas, it is your job to go out on the internet to say Obama is an idiot?

    Why don't you stick to the facts, and let fair minded folks come to that conclusion. The failure of the Top Kill technique had nothing to do with Obama's brains, or lack there of.

  10. Bux says

    Ah ha MobiusKlien, we come full circle. I find it "breathtakingly ironic" that you are concerned about Thomas referring to Obama as an idiot and yet I'm quite sure that the "fair-minded" likes of you, Ed Whitney, and Warren Terra spent the early part of this century running around rabidly referring to Bush as an idiot (and other creative names).

    Warren, it is precisely because of the selfish profit motive of the private sector that they are more efficient. Just curious, what is your occupation? Have you ever worked in a government beauracracy? have you ever had to try and fire a completely incompetent government employee? Just what evidence other than anecdotal evidence such as exposes do you have to show that government is more efficient than the private sector? I'm not interested in "effective and accountable" government; I'm interested in less government because I know how it works.

    And Ed, you do realize that you can never demonstrate the counter-factual that you've proposed, namely that "if the private sector had been left to its own devices, Germany and Japan would have been the winners". You make an observation without a comparison, which turns out to be nothing more than an interesting historical tidbit.

  11. Fred says

    Obama's responsibility for this disaster is rooted in his (administration's) inability and/or lack of willingness to wade into MMS and right the damage done by Bush administration policies, hiring practices and attitudes. But then the Bush mess is SO BIG and SO ENTRENCHED and reaches through so many departments and is engendering so many disasters it is like a whack-a-mole game where more than one mole popps up simultaniously. Add to this the Bushie practice of converting appointees (fireable) into employees (unfireable), the infamous sleeper cells left in place for the specific purpose of gumming up the works into the future. In short wrecking stuff is easy and quick, building and fixing are hard and slow. Besides, the ink was dry on the Deepwater Horizon deal before Obama took office. In light of all this is it fair or realistic to blame Obama for this specific disaster? But then when have our friends on the right ever been fair or realistic?

    As to Obama taking control of the clean-up, he is damned if he do and damned if he don't. This mess is a hopeless balls up with no good outcomes possible. If BP wants to do 'X' and the government says no you do 'Y' then the government not BP owns that result. And since Obama doesn't have the dictatorial powers ascribed to him by the TeaBaggers he can't put the fear of God into the BP execs who know that whatever the outcome BP can sandbag any judgement in court until three days past the end of the world (especially since they are working so diligently to hasten that eventuality).

    As Jimi Hedrix said "There ain't no right nowhere". The only thing Obama could have done much different would have been to declare the US government a disaster area on inauguration day and set up firing squads in the Rose Garden for all Liberty U alumns in government employ. That might have done some good but it still wouldn't have stopped this particular disaster.

  12. Brett Bellmore says

    I have to admit, anybody accusing Obama of being a socialist at this point IS exaggerating, (Aside from the ownership stake in Government motors, of course…) He's really much more a fascist: Nominal private ownership of the means of production, combined with de facto government control. Though even that exaggerates the extent to which he's a creature of ideology: Really, he just wants to be obeyed, and doesn't care about the details.

  13. Ed Whitney says

    Funny thing about this site: you ask a question in search of having an expert educate you about something, and you are met with silence. You make a bold unsupported assertion and you get quite a rise out of people.

    Vietnam hawks never stopped justifying the war on the basis of what they assumed about Munich, namely that if Chamberlain had “stood up” to Hitler in 1938, Germany would have been defeated quickly and easily. They had no observation for their counterfactual speculation, but that did not stop them from using it over and over, in spite of the fact that in 1938 England’s costal defenses were practically non-existent and no one knows what would have happened in their parallel universe.

    Three years and eight months elapsed between Pearl Harbor and V-J day. During this time, it was Washington bureaucrats who made all the decisions on the allocation of rubber, steel, copper, aluminum, nylon, and countless other materials. This command economy defeated two of the mightiest war machines the world had ever seen. The comparison observation I make is after 9-11, when the private sector has decided the allocation of materials, and nearly nine years later, a resurgent Taliban continues to cause trouble. If efficiency is some kind of supreme value, and you want things done and done fast, centralized decision making is what you want.

    Of course, if there are human values other than efficiency…

  14. says

    Will someone explain to me when "government" became disassociated with the citizens who create it and determine its makeup through their political activity? The United States Government has not power to do anything we don't tell it to do.

    Tea baggers and other small government types whine constantly about government doing this or that bad thing as if it had some agency of its own without their input. After all, they loved big government when it was giving them what they wanted: useless wars and redistribution of wealth from labor to capital.

    Citizens are the principal to the government agent. To be sure there is a lag, but when we don't like government, we can change it and we do. What annoys tea baggers is that more Americans have a liberal vision of government, and they constructed it to reflect their views because their views are mainstream. Tea Baggers are mad because they lost.

    Now tea baggers are worried about having to share their toys and they don't want to. Kennedy is right. Infants.

  15. Barry says

    Bux: "Let’s make BP clean up this mess. Unfortunately government (especially Obama’s government) doesn’t know how to get out of the way and let that happen. "

    Amazing dishonesty, albeit not amazing from your mouth. The private sector caused this damage, and it's only the public sector which is going to do anything about it. If it were libertopia, anybody harmed by BP's actions could talk to BP's mercenaries about it.

    Brett Bellmore says:

    "He’s really much more a fascist: Nominal private ownership of the means of production, combined with de facto government control. "

    Which goes to show that honest words rarely come out of your mouth – which was recently reinforced by Mr. Libertarian going all Zionist Fascist on us. Interesting that somebody who complains about government oppression suddenly supports government oppression.

  16. says

    Liberals believe government should do things that private enterprise can't do. Yet because it is the only one to do them, there is no market competition to compel efficiency. Yet blaming government for this, or arguing that this is evidence that the government shouldn't do X,Y,Z is a non-sequiter. Once private business starts competing with government to regulate hazardous materials, provide public education, libraries, parks, police, etc. – then we can talk.

    After the orgasmic chanting of drill, baby, drill – a smart conservative would be doing some serious reflection right now. But I'm not sure that word is in their dictionary.

  17. Brett Bellmore says

    "Will someone explain to me when “government” became disassociated with the citizens who create it and determine its makeup through their political activity?"

    Sure: That would be when campaign and election 'reforms' drove the reelection rate for incumbents so high that they're more likely to die in office than be defeated by challengers, rendering the function of elections in regulating the conduct of politicians ineffective.

  18. MobiusKlein says

    Bux, all I ask is something more than flat name calling.

    Eg, "George Bush was an idiot _because_ he trusted Dick Cheney to find a VP, and then took his advice that Dick Cheney was the right candidate. That is a classic error in judgment."

    If Thomas had given a reason to show how Obama is an idiot, we would be able to discuss it.

    I'll even give him a free one. "Obama is an idiot trusting that the BP CEO is telling the truth, since the CEO has every incentive to spin the facts to BP's side, and has done so as long as the spill has been in the news."

    If an OBot can come up with one, so can Thomas.

  19. says

    "…when campaign and election ‘reforms’ drove the reelection rate for incumbents so high that they’re more likely to die in office than be defeated by challengers, rendering the function of elections in regulating the conduct of politicians ineffective."

    Exactly how does voter preference for incumbents show that voters have no influence on government? Why exactly do you think this means that elections do not regulate the conduct of politicians?

    Elections do exactly that–whether or not incumbents tend to win, their behavior still depends on elections and voter response to their rhetoric and policy preferences (see e. g. Reagan's win over Carter and Congressional turnover in 1994, 2006, and 2008).

    Your complaint isn't really that voters have no say–what you don't like is the result they provide, now that liberals are winning.

  20. Ed Whitney says

    We must wait for Brett to respond and clarify what he means, but the incumbency re-election rate seems to depend partly on the way that district boundaries are drawn, with the result that it is commonly said that representatives select their constituents, rather than the other way around. The drawing of district boundaries is the result of horse trading at the state legislative level, much of which happens behind closed doors. I do not know that this accounts for the Tea Party discontent with government, but it is a concern of reasonable people on both sides of the political spectrum.

  21. Tony P. says

    have you ever had to try and fire a completely incompetent government employee?

    Does voting against Dubya in 2004 count? Admittedly, it didn't work.

    On the flip side, I have had to try and fire a completely incompetent corporate employee. That was very hard — even though I was his direct supervisor. My boss had warned me, when I hired on, that "You can't fire anybody around here unless he punches you in the face in front of witnesses." I finally got rid of the incompetent guy by convincing another supervisor to take him off my hands.

    I've seen enough of the inside of corporations to know that rumors of their "efficiency" are greatly exaggerated.

    –TP

  22. Brett Bellmore says

    "Exactly how does voter preference for incumbents show that voters have no influence on government? "

    Laws which disadvantage challengers relative to incumbents do not reflect a voter preference for incumbents. They reflect the incumbents writing the laws to assure themselves an uneven playing field.

  23. Cranky Observer says

    > During this time, it was Washington bureaucrats who made all the decisions

    > on the allocation of rubber, steel, copper, aluminum, nylon, and countless

    > other materials. This command economy defeated two of the mightiest war machines

    > the world had ever seen.

    That's a bit of an exaggeration. The War Production Board controlled many key decisions and materials, there were various forms of rationing, price controls, and prohibitions on making certain stuff, the military was buying a huge percentage of the nation's output, etc. But there were still many market and pricing mechanisms in operation, and those decisions that the WPB and/or Army didn't make explicitly were generally left to the appropriate market participants to work out.

    Cranky

  24. John Emerson says

    Among the traits of teabaggers is an inability to tell when the joke is on them.

  25. Warren Terra says

    Laws which disadvantage challengers relative to incumbents do not reflect a voter preference for incumbents.

    Sure, but what laws do you have in mind? I don't think that campaign finance reform laws, for all their flaws, qualify. They were intended to stop wealthy individuals from disproportionately influencing elections, and even more so to prevent corporate executives effectively using the stockholders' wealth to the same effect. I'm not aware of any evidence – or even any particularly convincing arguments – that they disadvantaged challengers relative to incumbents; certainly, they could have little effect on any genuinely insurgent, grassroots candidacy.

    There are some tricky ballot-access laws in some places, but even those have limited effects. I think it's the ability of representatives to pick their constituents through redistricting, along with the tremendous apathy and ignorance in much of the American electorate, that accounts for the success of so many profoundly mediocre incumbents. And, of course, many incumbents are successful because they were sufficiently talented as politicians to get elected in the first place, and – whatever else they may do, and whatever they may do to harm their constituents on other matters – they get done the things their constituents want done, the things their constituents actually care about.

  26. Ed Whitney says

    Cranky is correct that I fudged the truth a bit, but if you don't do that on this site, no one ever reacts. Just because we are committed to facts doesn't mean we can't stretch them a tad in order to make a point. In this case, that point is that the unprecedented involvement of the government in wartime production coincided with the end of the depression and with the colossal amount of weaponry that went into the two theaters of that war. I think that this was causal and not just correlation.

  27. CharlesWT says

    Perhaps in the short term. In the long term, we could have been so much better off if we could have kept all that blood and treasure.

  28. Ed Whitney says

    Which is why we need to have people show up at Tea Party rallies bearing posters that read, "If you don't like taxes, don't support wars." Seems like that ought to work as a bumper sticker.

  29. Brett Bellmore says

    That's better than showing up with Helen Thomas quotes, and pretending you're a tea party member, I suppose.

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