Obama on child care

by Henry on November 14, 2005

I was at a talk that Barack Obama gave last week at the National Women’s Law Center, and came away very impressed indeed. The speech began with standard politicians’ folderol, but kept on getting better. In particular, it focused on some of the political issues that Kimberly Morgan wrote about here earlier this year, but that Democratic politicians seem to have done a fine job in ignoring. Not only that, but it linked these issues directly to economic inequality.

And so women still earn 76% of what men do. They receive less in health benefits, less in pensions, less in Social Security. They receive little help for the rising cost of child care. They make up 71% of all Medicaid beneficiaries, and a full two-thirds of all the Americans who lost their health care this year. When women go on maternity leave, America is the only country in the industrialized world to let them go unpaid. When their children become sick and are sent home from school, many mothers are forced to choose between caring for their child and keeping their job.
… In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it – Social Darwinism, every man and woman for him or herself. It allows us to say to those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford – tough luck. It allows us to say to the women who lose their jobs when they have to care for a sick child – life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child born into poverty – pull yourself up by your bootstraps

Between this and John Edwards’ work on poverty, I’m actually feeling hopeful about the US Democratic party. Centrists in the party actually seem to be getting interested in inequality again, and to be finding a language that can link it to moral values. It’s the kind of hope that knows it’s going to be disappointed, if not dashed completely, by experience – but still, that’s more than I’ve had for years.

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1

rcriii 11.14.05 at 5:30 pm

Henry, you mistakenly forgot to indent your third paragraph, so it is unclear that it is a quote from the speech.

I was struck by the conflation of the economic statistics with the ‘Ownership Society’, until I read the speech. Obama manages to tie the two together.

Now if he is willing to put costs to his propsed remedies, and defend those costs, then he’ll be a leader, instead of just another politician.

2

Henry 11.14.05 at 5:34 pm

Thanks – sorted

3

Saheli 11.14.05 at 6:03 pm

Good post. I saw a Tivo’d Daily show with Obama on it last night, and I thought he did pretty sharp. Anyone know who’s tracking his legislative work so far?

4

Pablo Stafforini 11.14.05 at 6:08 pm

Centrists in the party actually seem to be getting interested in inequality again, and to be finding a language that can link it to moral values.

You must be joking. In an age where the gap between rich and poor is as widest as it ever was, and when every day 50,000 people (yes, fifty thousand) –including about 35,000 children– die of easily preventable diseases causally linked to avoidable poverty, here’s the language the “centrist” Obama uses to express his interest in inequality and voice his concern for moral values:

[I don’t] want us to spend money willy-nilly . . . on social programs if programs aren’t well thought through and you throw money at them, it may be a waste of money, and we don’t have money to waste, the same is certainly true on the international stage.

5

Louis Proyect 11.14.05 at 6:13 pm

Even if Barack Obama was good on domestic issues (and Pablo points out that he isn’t), he is simply awful on foreign policy–a real warhawk in fact.

http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Oct04/Smith1012.htm

6

MQ 11.14.05 at 6:26 pm

Louis Proyect:

Don’t be too quick to judge from one Socialist Worker article. Obama was strongly against the Iraq invasion. The stuff he said during his campaign last year about bombing Iran being “on the table” is not in line with most of his other stuff on foreign policy, and could well be the result of an inexperienced politician feeling his way.

On Iraq, Obama has called for a withdrawal but not necessarily an immediate one. Here’s a recent quote from him:

“My colleague from Illinois, Dick Durbin, spoke out forcefully – and voted against – the Iraqi invasion. He isn’t somehow transformed into a “war supporter” – as I’ve heard some anti-war activists suggest – just because he hasn’t called for an immediate withdrawal of American troops. He may be simply trying to figure out, as I am, how to ensure that U.S. troop withdrawals occur in such a way that we avoid all-out Iraqi civil war, chaos in the Middle East, and much more costly and deadly interventions down the road.”

7

Pablo Stafforini 11.14.05 at 6:28 pm

In case it wasn’t obvious, “as widest as” should have read “as wide as”.

8

Brendan H 11.14.05 at 6:43 pm

It wasn’t just Democratic politicians that ignored Kimberly Morgan’s contribution here — apart from a few strident “childcare damages children” nuts, it met with a pretty apathetic reception from the denizens of CT too.

9

Bernard Yomtov 11.14.05 at 6:45 pm

What in the world is wrong about the paragraph Pablo quotes? How does wasting money on poorly thought out programs help anyone?

10

jet 11.14.05 at 6:48 pm

pablo,
You wouldn’t perhaps have a link backing up your claim that 35,000 [US] children die every day from “easily preventable diseases causally linked to avoidable poverty”? And it would appear the angle of argument you are taking is that a politician can’t be a good leftist if he doens’t believe in throwing more money at a problem instead of finding out why the current amount of money isn’t solving the problem.

11

Will Wilkinson 11.14.05 at 6:50 pm

Here’s my unhappy assessment of Obama’s ignorant/opportunistic comparison of the ownerhsip society with social darwinism, sure to be unpopular around these parts:

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3969

12

Louis Proyect 11.14.05 at 7:20 pm

I see that Will Wilkinson is at George Mason University. I have the distinct impression that this instititution is deeply implicated in rightwing causes. I wonder how they ended up, for example, sponsoring HNN, which is a mothership for rightwing blogs, some more atrocious than others.

13

otto 11.14.05 at 7:27 pm

“They receive less in health benefits … They make up 71% of all Medicaid beneficiaries”
Compare and contrast.

14

jet 11.14.05 at 7:33 pm

louis,
Heh, very clever refutation. And I see you are an obscure, unrepentant Marxist who probably thinks Social-Democracy is a right-wing concept ripe for The Revolution and the Liberty is an archaic meaningless word whored by capitalist pigs to enrich themselves off the world’s workers.

15

Kenny Easwaran 11.14.05 at 8:15 pm

Wait a minute, 50,000 people die every day of some sort of causes? That means approximately 15,000,000 a year? If Pablo Stafforini means this to talk about the US, that would mean that the life expectancy at birth would be under 20.

In Europe that would put the life expectancy around 40 or so.

So I can only assume that he means that each day 50,000 people in the world “die of easily preventable diseases causally linked to avoidable poverty”. That translates to about 2,000 a day in the US, or more likely far fewer, because there is much less poverty in the US than other countries. That number is much more plausible, and certainly still tragic.

But I’d much rather focus people on the issues of poverty by providing correct statistics that have some sort of citation, so that we can know best how to focus our efforts. And how not to give fodder to right-wing critics of our efforts.

16

Matt Weiner 11.14.05 at 8:48 pm

Well, to be fair in the paragraph Pablo quoted Obama was discussing international as well as intranational anti-poverty programs. So I think it’s OK to quote global poverty statistics. That said I agree with Bernard–throwing away money is bad–I’d have to see more context to judge whether or not this amounted to a pernicious attack on foreign aid.

17

Matt Weiner 11.14.05 at 8:53 pm

Since the next sentence was

On the other hand, when we publicly announce that we’re making these commitments, and if it appears that we’re not following through, then that undermines our credibility and makes your job more difficult

I would say this is not to Obama’s discredit–he was scolding Rice for failing to follow through on commitments to foreign aid.

18

thibaud 11.14.05 at 10:25 pm

Centrists in the party actually seem to be getting interested in inequality again, and to be finding a language that can link it to moral values.

As are Republicans: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/312korit.asp.

This article summarizes some creative thinking that wisely focuses on the # 1 issue in the vast majority of American lives today– ie, insecurity, of pensions, health care access, family prospects, national security– and mixes old and new prescriptions in a very clever and probably compelling way.

The essence of the above proposals is a recognition that working and middle-class families face great insecurity on a variety of fronts and should be provided with all manner of tax breaks and incentives for bearing and raising children. Make health insurance mandatory– and remove the perverse and nasty incentives for intermediaries to shift costs onto patients and restrict choices. Eliminate income taxes for households earning less than $100,000– and introduce a very high consumption tax that will hit the super-rich, especially the trust-funders (who were the bedrock Kerry supporters in the last election). Above all, increase the child tax credit significantly and provide benefits to stay-at-home moms (or dads).

Help the puppies, not the yuppies. Electoral dominance goes to the party that can win over young exurban and hispanic families struggling to raise and provide for their kids properly and young, low-income african-american men who wish to marry and provide for their children.

19

thibaud 11.14.05 at 10:33 pm

Neither of our two corrupt, gerrymandering parties really gets it. The Democrats are addicted to income taxes and dominated by the agenda of socially-liberal childless urban yuppies, while the Republicans are addicted to corporate bullies and dominated by the agenda of religious nuts and country-clubbers.

Neither party really grasps the enormous electoral opportunity that awaits those who favor policies designed to help working families– dual emphasis on families, not gays and childless yupsters, and working, not the John and Teresa trust-funders and gazillionaire rentiers who now dominate the Democratic elite. The insecurity is real, it’s pervasive, and it’s largely ignored by our two incompetent politburo parties.

20

McDuff 11.15.05 at 12:21 am

So, it’s “a pox on both their houses” is it?

Well, that didn’t take long.

21

thibaud 11.15.05 at 1:24 am

“Didn’t take long”??

Sorry, I don’t speak your particular snark patois. Perhaps you can explain what, if anything, is meant by this little eruption? Is it standard form on this site to try to diminish an argument by means of a sneer instead of with counterarguments?

In any case the issue here is deadly serious. It’s about security, stupid, and addressing it requries moving beyond an American political deadlock and a political class that is about as effective in dealing with this central issue of our era as the Whigs and their counterparts were in dealing with slavery during the 1850s. Re that class’s corruption, note that thanks to gerrymandering by both parties, well over 90% of races in both California and Texas in 2004 were noncompetitive, ie decided by margin of at least 12%.

22

Artemis 11.15.05 at 1:57 am

Luis Proyect’s “refutation” of Will Wilkinson reminded me of a great post of Wilkinson’s on the tactic of questioning the funding when one is losing the argument:

http://www.willwilkinson.net/flybottle/archives/2004/10/losing_the_argu.html

“Eric Alterman’s series on the devious, conspiratorial funding of “right wing” organizations is a great example of the left’s misguided retardo-Marxist cui bono obsession. It absolutely mystifies me why the left spends so much energy tracking down funding sources of the right. I always detect in these things a ostrich-like refusal to seriously engage the fact that the left has for the last 20 years been getting its ass handed to it intellectually.

This is so noxious to the left’s self-image that they can do nothing but go deep into denial, and complain incessantly about, what? . . . Just how smart those the right-wing plutocrats are? Concede relative strategic incompetence in order to preserve the illusion of the moral/intellectual high ground? I really don’t get it. What, really, is the point of this stuff?

(I mean, think about it this way: if I was paid to kick Eric Alterman’s ass, but I had very much wanted to kick Alterman’s ass anyway, and I proceeded to kick Alterman’s ass, Alterman’s pointing out that I was paid to kick his ass neither shows that I wouldn’t have kicked his ass if I hadn’t been paid, nor that his ass wasn’t, in fact, kicked, nor that Alterman could have kicked my ass if only he had been paid. So why bring it up? Does it make him feel better? [By the way, I do not, in fact, have any desire to kick Alterman’s ass.])”

23

abb1 11.15.05 at 5:46 am

I mean, think about it this way: if I was paid to kick Eric Alterman’s ass, but I had very much wanted to kick Alterman’s ass anyway, and I proceeded to kick Alterman’s ass, Alterman’s pointing out that I was paid to kick his ass neither shows that I wouldn’t have kicked his ass if I hadn’t been paid, nor that his ass wasn’t, in fact, kicked, nor that Alterman could have kicked my ass if only he had been paid.

Think about it this way, though: if you weren’t paid, supplied with talking points, supported by think-tanks, dozens of pundits and dozens of glossy magazines, preceded by decades of relentless propaganda and suppression of alternative views – not only you wouldn’t have kicked anyone’s ass, you’d probably be considered an oddball, nothing more than a harmless weirdo.

Hey, money does matter in this world.

24

Barry 11.15.05 at 6:42 am

And lots of ‘research’ which is no more intellectually credible as advertising.

Take away the junk science brothels of AIE, CATO, Heritage, etc., and the right-wing would be deprived of most of its intellectual cover.

25

abb1 11.15.05 at 6:52 am

Seriously, Obama’s equation of the American ideals of ownership, independence, and autonomy with “Social Darwinism,” Barber’s charge that Social Security personal accounts are a ploy to reinstate Hobbesian chaos, these are signs of the sickness at the heart of contemporary liberalism: the inability or unwillingness to recognize the cooperative market order — our system of mutual benefit based on ownership and exchange — as the primary source of American prosperity, security, and solidarity.

Top 1% owns 40% of all the wealth in the US, top 10% owns two thirds.

Inability or unwillingness to recognize it undeniably is a signs of some kind of sickness.

26

jet 11.15.05 at 8:06 am

abb1,
It is interesting that the two great classical liberal thinkers on a state of nature were Locke and Hobbes are still so relevant today. Hobbes believed man existed in a state of nature as brutish monsters with the strong preying on the weak, and there were no rights except what could be gained through subjugating the weaker. Thus an absolute government was needed to control the savaged. He wasn’t so heavy on the providing rights part, just stability and an end to the arbitrariness of it all.

Locke on the other hand looked around at the world he lived in a realized that Hobbes was an idiot because there were nice examples of man living in a state of nature everywhere. So be it his brilliant mind of just his ability to observe the world around him, he realized that man in a state of nature cooperated with each other and came about some form of rights on their own. And thus government was needed to ensure those rights in a more efficient manner.

You might see the irony in that modern liberals, such as Obama, adhere to Hobbesian views of mankind and seem much more concerned with social justice than the rights of individuals.

27

Slocum 11.15.05 at 8:19 am

In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it – Social Darwinism, every man and woman for him or herself.

I’ve generally been impressed with Obama, but claiming that the ‘Ownership Society’ amounts to ‘Social Darwinism’ is just not going to be a winning political argument. If you want to claim that ‘ownership’ works well for most of us, but there are some who are left out we need to worry about or that ownership is great for houses but not so much for healthcare, well fine, but to equate ownership (and, by extension, personal responsibility) with social darwinism is a bad idea.

28

abb1 11.15.05 at 8:53 am

Jet,
I am all for the rights of individuals and I hate government oppression just as much as the next guy, but some of these CATO folks, when they talk about ‘rights of individuals’, what they really mean is ‘property rights’. Thus by defending the ‘rights of individuals’ they simply shill for a small group of wealthy individuals (their paymasters). So, this, in fact, is just the other side of the ‘social justice’ coin.

29

fnook 11.15.05 at 9:01 am

slocum, read Obama’s speech. To the extent that he’s equating ownership society rhetoric w/ winner take all social darwinism, he’s doing so in order to drive home the absurdity of the Republican anti-tax fetish. Personally, I have no idea what ownership society is supposed to mean and Will W’s paen to the realities of the modern economy didn’t really help me much.

30

Laura 11.15.05 at 9:24 am

excellent post, henry. Totally agree that the Democratic party has done a piss poor job of discussing inequality, in particular as it relates to women.

If married women were such as critical voting block in the last election, why haven’t they pushed both parties to discuss issues like maternity leave, child care, and homemaker saving plans?

There are some interesting grassroots groups that are organizing around these issues. Between those grassroots orgs and Obama, may be we can start to get these issus on the agenda.

31

Bro. Bartleby 11.15.05 at 10:23 am

Perhaps the cause of poverty in the 21st Century is value based, and not economic based. So too morality and ethics (as opposed to Marxist thinking). Capitalism as an economic model is amoral, and as a working model it far surpasses all other models in producing material goods (ask any Shanghai merchant). So too a corporation — amoral. Now those who operate within this economic system are either moral or immoral, decent or indecent folks. A corporation can be driven by ethical folks who use this amoral system to do morally good things. From Christian teachings, Jesus spoke more about money than any other subject in the Gospels. For the most part He taught money itself is amoral (how one accumulates money can be done honestly or dishonestly), but what is important is how one uses that money. In the end it all comes down to individual humans — a corporate president, a world leader, a city mayor, a scientist, a musician, a homeless fellow, a university professor or student, a fast-food worker — they all have the choice to live morally or immorally. But if a society doesn’t value values, if ethics are but the construct of each individual, to be applied as one sees self interest, then perhaps what we read in the daily news of crime and corruption in high offices is simply the fruits of our labors. Perhaps we forget, starved souls are as tragic as starved bodies.
Bro. Bartleby

32

Louis Proyect 11.15.05 at 10:37 am

To answer my own question:

RECIPIENT PROFILE

http://www.gmu.edu
George Mason University

Fairfax, VA 22030-4444

George Mason University
and the
George Mason University Foundation, Inc.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This page encompasses both the George Mason University and the George Mason University Foundation, whose grants are listed separately (see links at left).]

[From -The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations by NCRP]

The heavy stream of money invested in George Mason University offers a striking example of the attention that conservative foundations have paid to the recruitment and training of college youth. Located just outside the Washington, D.C. beltway and offering good access to national decision makers, George Mason University has been a magnet for right-wing money for over a decade.

From 1992 through 1994, the 12 foundations invested a combined total of $8.55 million in various academic programs and institutes of George Mason University. This amount placed the University third among all academic and non-academic grantees, traiing only the more prestigious University of Chicago and the Heritage Foundation. Among other things, awards to George Mason University supported the work of the Center for Market Processes ($2.1 million), the Center for the Study of Public Choice ($524,100), the Institute for Humane Studies ($3 million), and the Law and Economics Program and Center ($1.4 million), headed by Henry Manne.

Both the Institute for Humane Studies(IHS) and the Center for Market Processes(CMP) offer training programs for young conservatives to prepare them for public policy careers.

full: http://www.mediatransparency.org/recipientprofile.php?recipientID=413

33

abb1 11.15.05 at 10:56 am

In the end it all comes down to individual humans—a corporate president, a world leader, a city mayor, a scientist, a musician, a homeless fellow, a university professor or student, a fast-food worker—they all have the choice to live morally or immorally.

That’s just not true – as far as the corporate president is concerned. Corporate president’s job is to maximize shareholder value, there’s no wiggle room for morality or immorality; it’s pure mathematics, you’re maximizing a function. If you lose 1 dollar of shareholder value for the sake of morality – you’ve breached your fiduciary duty.

Yeah, and breaching your fiduciary duty is, of course, immoral – a bit of a paradox here.

34

Artemis 11.15.05 at 11:29 am

Let’s see … so far Louis P. has done a parody of the “if you’re losing the argument, question the funding” dance that Wilkinson skewers. [Thanks, Louis, that was my first real laugh of the day.] Others have complained about the right-wing talking points, Cato Institute “junk science,” etc. None of this, of course, refutes anything Wilkinson actually argues, but I guess it makes you all feel good about yourselves.

And for the commenter who claimed that Obama compared “the ownership society” to Social Darwinism in order to drive home the absurdity of the Republican anti-tax fetish,” is it your point that it’s okay to use specious, sloppy, scare-mongering analogies as long as it’s for a good cause?

35

abb1 11.15.05 at 12:00 pm

I haven’t noticed Mr. Wilkinson actually arguing anything. He’s engaged in rhetorical exercise, equating this vague notion of ‘Ownership Society’ with ‘American ideals of ownership, independence, and autonomy‘. Well, no one knows what exactly “Ownership Society” means, so it may very well be that – or (more likely) it might be indeed Social Darwinism in disguise, as Mr. Obama suggested.

Mr. Obama, however, at least supplements his rhetoric with some numbers and Mr. Wilkinson, of course, offers none. So, I’m afraid, no points to young Wilkinson here.

36

Slocum 11.15.05 at 12:24 pm

Personally, I have no idea what ownership society is supposed to mean.

I take it to mean something on the order of the following. It puts home ownership at the center of a political philosopy. Various studies show people behave differently when they own a home rather than rent. Obviously, they take better care of the property itself, but they are also literally invested in the community. So, they are more to get involved in local organizations, vote in local elections, and so on.

Extending that to health care means giving people more responsibility. If you have a health savings account and can keep any leftover funds, perhaps you’ll tend to have healthier habits. Perhaps you’ll not run in to the doctor’s office for every sore throat, cough, and sniffle and give them a chance to resolve on their own. Maybe you’ll notice and care if the hospital tries to bill $10 for 2 tylenol tablets. Maybe you won’t demand a
prescription for ‘free’ antibiotics you have a virus, and so on.

Now I’m not saying there aren’t problems with this vision–there are. But to claim that it amounts to nothing more than ‘Devil take the hindmost’ is a mistake.

37

a 11.15.05 at 12:35 pm

“If you have a health savings account and can keep any leftover funds, perhaps you’ll tend to have healthier habits.” Or perhaps you’ll tend to have less healthier habits, such as putting off that doctor’s visit to save money.

38

Artemis 11.15.05 at 12:58 pm

abb1,

Are *these* the numbers you’re referring to? The ones which support the notion of Social Darwinsism?

“And so women still earn 76% of what men do. They receive less in health benefits, less in pensions, less in Social Security. They receive little help for the rising cost of child care. They make up 71% of all Medicaid beneficiaries, and a full two-thirds of all the Americans who lost their health care this year.”

Wow. He really convinced me. That’s airtight proof of Social Darwinism right there. It seems to me if Obama wants to be so vague about “Social Darwinism,” Wilkinson can be equally vague about “the ownership society.” Wilkinson, at least, was funny about it, and his purpose was to puncture Obama’s empty and inflated rhetoric.

39

MQ 11.15.05 at 1:16 pm

The “ownership society” is a propaganda front for taking money away from the poor and middle class and giving it to the rich and defense industries, just like absolutely everything else in the Republican intellectual agenda is. People like Will Wilkinson are useful because they provide the supporting rhetoric to distract the public while the robbery goes on. Liberals have no objection to vouchers or “accounts” that actually effectively transfer purchasing power from those who are wealthy to those who are less so. But things like the social security private accounts were obviously rigged to simply cut people’s social security benefits so Bush could fund his tax cuts. Similarly, HSAs would provide yet another way for the relatively privileged to do tax-favored savings without doing much to address the fundamental inequities, unfairnesses, and even inefficiencies of the current U.S. health care system.

The key liberal point is redistribution to blunt the inequalities that naturally arise in a capitalist system, and in fact an emphasis on ownership of what is redistributed to you is quite welcome and congenial to liberalism.

40

tag 11.15.05 at 1:29 pm

I would like someone to help me find where the tired and overused statistic that women earn 3/4 of what men do comes from and how has it changed over the course of the past 20 years. Is it an average of earnings via IRS data? counting heads at the top of company management? professional athletic prizes?

the jury in my head is still out on the validity of this data and how it was arrived at as well as whether or not it is still valid.

some reasons why I am skeptical:

– pop news often talks about how men have trouble dealing with spouses who earn more than them
– I have never seen a pay schedule or commission schedule for men and women in any business or occupation.
– how many women are working as part of the total # of women who can work?
– how many women work part time in order to be able to be able to be involved in the rearing of children? ( I am not saying it should be this way, but why isn’t there a meme about “soccer dads” or classroom dads”?)
– why is daytime TV commercials and programming focused on women?

before I get flamed for being sexist and un PC – consider my request for further information as an opportunity to convince me as well as strengthen the validity of the need for political measures to rectify this inequality if it

41

Uncle Kvetch 11.15.05 at 2:15 pm

I take it to mean something on the order of the following. It puts home ownership at the center of a political philosopy. Various studies show people behave differently when they own a home rather than rent. Obviously, they take better care of the property itself, but they are also literally invested in the community.

I see…so we fine-tune government policies in order to get people to think and behave in ways that we think are best.

All of which flies smack into the brick wall of the “libertarian” creed that I can decide what kinds of thoughts and behaviors are right for me better than the government can.

But whatever. What’s really important in this discussion, as Thibaud pointed out not once but twice, is that John Kerry and his wife are extremely rich trust-funders…unlike our Dear Leader, who bootstrapped his way up from nothing…

This is truly one of the silliest “discussions” I’ve seen on CT in quite some time.

42

Bro. Bartleby 11.15.05 at 2:29 pm

43

MQ 11.15.05 at 2:36 pm

tag — it comes from CPS data on self-reported earnings of full time, full year working women vs. full time, full year working men. So current part time vs. full time status is controlled for, but not previous labor market history in earlier years. Google “Current Population Survey” and you should get the CPS page at the Census Bureau, which should have this data going back to the 70s.

44

abb1 11.15.05 at 2:38 pm

Artemis, fair enough. However: rhetoric is perfectly natural coming from politician making a speech. From a blogger we expect just a little bit more.

45

Slocum 11.15.05 at 3:20 pm

I see…so we fine-tune government policies in order to get people to think and behave in ways that we think are best.

All of which flies smack into the brick wall of the “libertarian” creed that I can decide what kinds of thoughts and behaviors are right for me better than the government can.

That’s kind of a demented argument — libertarians believe government should be structured to allow people to make their own decisions freely? Aha! But who made THAT decision? Isn’t it anti-libertarian to force freedom on the unwilling?

But anyway, I’m not claiming that the ‘ownership society’ idea is fundamentally libertarian or even desirable (certainly I don’t think it’s desirable in all domains and for all citizens). What I am claiming is:

1. It’s not the equivalent of social darwinism, and

2. It’s not politically astute to make the claim in #1.

46

Uncle Kvetch 11.15.05 at 3:29 pm

I’m not claiming that the ‘ownership society’ idea is fundamentally libertarian

You might not be, Slocum, but I have to presume that the Cato Institute–an unmistakeably libertarian outfit, the last time I checked–is. And if their understanding of the OS is anything like yours, I fail to see how it could possibly fit the libertarian label. But then I gave up trying to find any shred of coherence in all but a tiny handful of self-proclaimed “libertarians” a long time ago.

47

Pablo Stafforini 11.15.05 at 3:30 pm

You wouldn’t perhaps have a link backing up your claim that 35,000 [US] children die every day from “easily preventable diseases causally linked to avoidable poverty”?

With all due respect, the fact that you actually need such a link is itself a testimony of your complete lack of moral awareness. Imagine someone demanding a link “backing up” a “claim” about the Holocaust. But since you asked for it, here’s a suggestion: try checking UNICEF (http://www.unicef.org) or the UN Millennium Project (http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/).

And it would appear the angle of argument you are taking is that a politician can’t be a good leftist if he doens’t believe in throwing more money at a problem instead of finding out why the current amount of money isn’t solving the problem.

Please. When David Horowitz campaigns for “academic freedom”, one doesn’t need to disagree with the letter of the bill to oppose it: it is the actual consequences of its adoption what gives people reason for concern. Same with Obama. Irrespective of their content, we all know what the effect of statements like the one I quoted are. They reinforce the misconception (which you seem to share) that, generally speaking, foreign aid doesn’t work, and that the problem is not that the US is giving less than one tenth of one percent of its GDP, but rather that, since those funds are not doing any work, we’d better reduce or altogether eliminate our spending in the area. The truth of the matter is that, according to the most conservative estimates, US$200 will literally save the life of one kid in Africa. Shouldn’t a genuine egalitarian be emphasizing this brutal reality and doing everything in his power to increase foreign aid? How come someone who does the opposite is said to link inequality to “moral values”?

48

asg 11.15.05 at 3:51 pm

Godwin’s Law upheld again! On pablo stafforini’s home planet, it is now the equivalent of Holocaust denial to question UNICEF press releases.

(For the record, I tried the following Google searches based on pablo’s links and came up empty:

35,000 preventable children deaths U.S. site:unicef.org

35,000 preventable children deaths U.S. site:unmillenniumproject.org

I also tried removing the periods from U.S.).

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jet 11.15.05 at 4:02 pm

Uncle Kvetch,
I’m pretty sure the GOP claims to be the party of the Ownership Society. It is a (neo)conservative backed philosophy,

50

jet 11.15.05 at 4:12 pm

Pablo Stafforini,
You want an example of how you are absolutely wrong? Which helps more, $200 to an African aid agency or a $100 cut in Western farm subsidies?

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Bro. Bartleby 11.15.05 at 5:37 pm

abb1: “That’s just not true – as far as the corporate president is concerned. Corporate president’s job is to maximize shareholder value, there’s no wiggle room for morality or immorality; it’s pure mathematics, you’re maximizing a function. If you lose 1 dollar of shareholder value for the sake of morality – you’ve breached your fiduciary duty.
Yeah, and breaching your fiduciary duty is, of course, immoral – a bit of a paradox here.”
——–
When Adam Smith invented capitalism a few years before this nation was formed, he recognized its limitations. Before becoming an economics philosopher, Smith had a previous career as a moral essayist. He knew there was a danger of an immoral dominance in capitalist economics but he theorized that the “invisible hand” of society would overcome this. Smith speculated that the self-interest of the capitalist would benefit the community because the capitalist needed the community. But what has become of that “invisible hand”? What has become of the community? (global community?) In the universities values and morals are self-defined, the supreme arbritrator of truth is the self. And so too in corporate America, the capitalist are unfettered by a communal “invisible hand” (in days gone by, the spiritual teachings from the pulpits), and now the capitalists (and politicians?) are following the lead of the universities, they are creating their own values and morals. So where do our children learn their values, certainly not in the Sunday school classes of days gone by, but more than likely on the soccer fields on Sunday mornings. Learning teamwork and the competitive spirit — how to win — the first rung on the amoral corporate ladder.

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antirealist 11.15.05 at 10:05 pm

Re the “35,000 preventable childhood deaths/day” claim, you can find the following here:

Every year, nearly 11 million children die before reaching their fifth birthday, most from preventable causes. That is approximately, 30,000 children per day.

That’s (obviously) a world statistic. The total annual number of deaths under 5 years from all causes in the US is about 35,000 (source).

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abb1 11.16.05 at 3:04 am

Bro. Bartleby,
I hear you, but I don’t think this is a characteristic unique to capitalism; if you read John Ralston Saul, he traces the tendency of rationality trumping over ethics and common sense back to 16-17th centuries – Machiavelli, Richelieu, Loyola, etc., and then forward to German’s Third Reich, Stalin’s purges and Western arm trade.

Corporate capitalism is just one of the manifestations.

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engels 11.16.05 at 9:50 am

asg – The charitable interpretation of your reaction is that you don’t have a clue. The number 35 000 per day is equivalent to 10 million deaths per year – obviously this is not a figure for the US: the numbers are global. This confusion is due to Jet, and it seems to be based on the pretty repulsive assumption that pointing out that these children are not American makes Pablo’s fact in any way less shocking.

Yes, refusing to accept such claims is pretty close to holocaust denial, and quibbling about the exact numbers (as with the holocaust) is not the issue. It is a fact that these appalling things are taking place and trying to call into question, for political reasons, UNICEF’s authority on this matter is really very shameful.

jet –

Which helps more, $200 to an African aid agency or a $100 cut in Western farm subsidies?

Why do you think you have to choose between these things? Cutting American or European farm subsidies will make us richer, leaving us with more money for aid. A complete red herring.

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Bro. Bartleby 11.16.05 at 9:53 am

abb1,

Yes, just one of the manifestations, but OUR manifestation. Oops, I forgot, responsibility is no longer in vogue. But, hypothetically, we could teach responsibility to our children, likewise to our youth, and maybe even venture into that taboo arena of accountability, and so too apply these standards to every city councilperson, mayor, police officer, priest, senator, teacher, professor … well, why don’t I just say it? Everyone!

56

Jim Miller 11.16.05 at 10:49 am

I was delighted to see that phrase about “John Edwards’ work on poverty”. It shows, if I may say so, Henry’s deft comic touch, as he reminds us indirectly of Edwards’ empty Senate record. Six years, zero accomplishments. There are a few senators who can match that, but not many.

Incidentally, Edwards appears to have spent much of his time in the Senate speculating in the stock market — and fairly successfully. So, we can say that he has a fine plan to reduce poverty — for John Edwards.

(Here’s a summary of Edwards’s accomplishments for those who are unfamiliar with his record.)

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engels 11.16.05 at 11:16 am

Shorter Jim Miller: “Incidentally” Edwards made some money on the stockmarket. So he is a hypocrite. (There goes the “American dream”.)

The claim in the blog post you advertise – that suitable qualifications for “political executives” are an MBA or military service – is the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

58

thibaud 11.17.05 at 1:04 am

Uncle Kvetch,

What’s really important in this discussion, as Thibaud pointed out not once but twice, is that John Kerry and his wife are extremely rich trust-funders

Actually, I said it once, and also noted that Kerry’s core support was from fellow trust funders– not the working families that once upon a time, back when I was a passionate instead of a reluctant Democrat, formed the core of the Party. That party, which was run by people who knew what the working class actually cared about (instead of sneering at them a la Tom Franks)– people like Tip O’Neill and Harry Truman, or Humphrey, Mondale, Clinton– has somehow morphed into a party of bond traders (Corzine), rich socialites (Pelosi), and moronic stockbrokers (Boxer). Even the working class heroes like Edwards are little more than lightweight F Lee Barnum & Bailey ambulance chasers.

Check out this map http://www.patrickruffini.com/research/swing2004big.jpg

Note that the darkest red counties, ie, those in which Kerry’s % of the vote increased by 18+ percentage points over Gore’s total, on this map are in the following counties, going from east to west:
–southern Vermont
–various counties in South Dakota
–Boulder, Gunnison (Aspen), Telluride in Colorado
–Jackson Hole, WY
–Sun Valley, ID
–Napa and Humboldt, CA

With the exception of So Dakota, which apparently is perhaps explained by the intense and bitter Senate race in ’04 in which Daschle was defeated, all of these are second-home, gazillionaire enclaves that attract plenty of left-leaning hippies, snow bunnies, mushroom-growers et al. In other words, not just trustfunders but the same types of folks who make up, OTOH, the Soros/Ben&Jerry/Tereza left-billionaire crowd and, OTO, the Kos crowd, ie what has since Nov 2000 become the de facto core of the Democratic Party. This is where the money comes from; these are the hardcore activists. It’s ludicrous to think that these folks are credible standard-bearers for a platform emphasizing poverty reduction.

To me this suggests that the party’s leadership today is less than serious in its commitment to helping working families. ThomasFranks it all you like, but the fact remains that the Democratic Party is deeply out of touch with ordinary Americans who do not live in either ski bunny gazillionaire heaven or absurdly overpriced yuppie enclaves like Manhattan and SF whose working and middle classes long ago decamped for normal, affordable suburban locales.

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