Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Store Wars

A friend of mine sent me this cute Star Wars spoof, Store Wars by the Organic Trade Association. I often buy organic food because I think it's healthier but I have no illusions about it, I know this is a luxury I'm lucky enough to afford. While there are legitimate problems with some corporate farms (you should read Al Franken's account of "shit geysers" on pig farms), this video doth protests too much. We have over six billion people on this planet and enough food for everyone. Yes, people still starve but for political and economic reasons, not technological or agricultural reason. I don't think we can feed six billion people organically.

And while you are at it, check out the trailers for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which actually puts "The Chronicles of Narnia" as the main title, leading me to believe they plan to make a movie from each book. Could this be like Lord of the Rings where we see a new movie each Christmas?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bush -- Biggest Spender In 30 Years

From the conservative (libertarian) CATO Institute:
President Bush has presided over the largest overall increase in inflation-adjusted federal spending since Lyndon B. Johnson. Even after excluding spending on defense and homeland security, Bush is still the biggest-spending president in 30 years. His 2006 budget doesn’t cut enough spending to change his place in history, either.

Total government spending grew by 33 percent during Bush’s first term. The federal budget as a share of the economy grew from 18.5 percent of GDP on Clinton’s last day in office to 20.3 percent by the end of Bush’s first term.

The Republican Congress has enthusiastically assisted the budget bloat. Inflation-adjusted spending on the combined budgets of the 101 largest programs they vowed to eliminate in 1995 has grown by 27 percent.

The GOP was once effective at controlling nondefense spending. The final nondefense budgets under Clinton were a combined $57 billion smaller than what he proposed from 1996 to 2001. Under Bush, Congress passed budgets that spent a total of $91 billion more than the president requested for domestic programs. Bush signed every one of those bills during his first term. Even if Congress passes Bush’s new budget exactly as proposed, not a single cabinet-level agency will be smaller than when Bush assumed office.

Republicans could reform the budget rules that stack the deck in favor of more spending. Unfortunately, senior House Republicans are fighting the changes. The GOP establishment in Washington today has become a defender of big government.
Bush and his Republican colleagues in congress have spent more than Clinton or Carter and certainly more than any other Republican, and he's done all this while simultaneously cutting taxes dramatically. If Bush was a CEO he would have been booted out years ago for such recklessness.

I'm all in favor of getting back to the old debate between higher taxes with increased services versus lower taxes and decreased services -- both sides are logically consistent have real advantages and disadvantages -- but nobody, nobody should be in favor of this reckless combination of spending and tax cuts. There are many reasons why I have a bumpersticker claiming Bush is the "worst president ever", but this is by far the main reason. Nothing more clearly demonstrates the idiocies of this president's policies. Personally, I believe most of his policies are at about the same level, but this one is so obvious everyone should see it.

Clinton saved us from that deficit only a few years ago and we threw it all away. We may have to wait another generation before we see another president with enough guts to hold down spending while keeping taxes high enough to pay for what services are there. The success of the 90's should prove that such policies, at a minimum, don't produce the doom and gloom scenarios Republicans claim.

Good government. Not dramatic government, not exciting government, just a bunch of smart guys with our best interests in mind doing the right thing. Is that too much to ask for? Can we have that again?

(Hat tip: Pacificus)

Monday, May 09, 2005


Before I talk about conservative and liberal alliances I'd like to toss in a note I meant to mention below about optimism. Notice that even though it is the conservatives who fear change and the liberals who are open to change, it is very easy for conservatives to paint liberals as pessimists. After all, if you want to change something the first thing you do is point out what is wrong with the current system and that comes across as pessimistic. The conservatives, on the other hand, just have to say positive things about how things are and how horrible those evil liberals are for wanting to change everything.

Yet, it is the conservatives whom actually are most afraid, for they fear change. You can see this in the Republican party, they do an awesome job of looking optimistic while simultaneously painting a fearful picture of all things different. We Democrats tend to assume Rove is some genius for this juggling act, but really it is a natural consequence of conservatism and thus quite easy.

Liberals must remember we are the ones pushing for change so it is up to us to make the positive case.

Note also how easy it is to make liberals look like elitists. Even though the true elites are squarely in the conservative camp, we are the ones who claim we know what is wrong and what must be changed. That sounds awfully elitist, doesn't it? We must remember the people are right to resist change, the burden of proof really is in our court.


At the most basic, non-politically defined level, conservatives resist change while liberals are open to change. Just from these simple definitions it’s amazing how many observations can be made. For one, this is a sliding scale. Most everyone has some openness to change and some resistance, yet it is possible to be completely resistant to all change and still be considered sane, an old coot, perhaps, but mostly sane. On the other hand, belief that everything should be changed, regardless of what was being changed, what it was being changed into, or any other details, probably requires a sanity check. Perhaps this is why there will always be more conservatives than liberals.

For similar reasons, openness and resistance to change aren’t really opposites, at least in the abstract. Openness for change requires details to become support for change, while resistance does not require any such details. The two only become opposites in specific debates, such as gay rights, with liberals pushing for change and conservatives resisting.

Once we get into politics, there are two groups that naturally resist change, those that currently hold power and those who support traditional values. Those who currently hold power, whether it be by wealth or monarchy, wish to maintain that power; the status quo is good to them and they have no desire to see any change that could disrupt that. The traditional values crowd, on the other hand, tend to have religious reasons for their beliefs, or perhaps just dislike a world that moves too quickly. This crowd tends to assume the world is going downhill (“to Hell in a hand basket!”) and resists that perceived trend.

Sure enough, those two groups make up our current Republican party. The rich and powerful don’t have a whole lot in common with those promoting traditional values other than this resistance to change, but there’s the alliance nonetheless.

Liberals, on the other hand, have no obvious groups that simply promote change. Instead, there are lots of different groups that promote very specific changes. One group wants to give gays the right to marry while another wants tougher regulations to reduce pollution and yet another wants to help the poor. Anyone who fights for change becomes liberal, at least temporarily, until they get their change.

And sure enough, the Democrats tend to be a hodge-podge of various interest groups that often have nothing in common. And while conservatism leads itself to a simple philosophy (what’s simpler than “don’t change”) no such philosophy exists for liberals. Perhaps this is why it is so hard to come up with an “elevator pitch” for liberalism. It really does boil down to details. It also backs up my assertion that liberals tend to become conservatives once they have won whatever they were fighting for.

As I said, it really is amazing how much you can observe from just the two simple definitions of resistance and openness to change. But it doesn’t explain everything. Why are conservatives viewed as better at national security? Why are conservatives pushing for changes in Social Security while liberals are resisting that change? Why do libertarians tend to be conservative? We need to look at our alliances more closely and iterate through the analysis loop at least one more time. I’ll save that for another post.