Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kefauver's Axiom

Matthew Rozsa's Facebook Status:

To my Republican friends... if you are honest with yourselves, you'll admit this is true:
"The Democratic attitude has always been to consider the need as the paramount thing and then find means of meeting that need. The Republican attitude is that need is a thing to be relieved only if important private enterprises can do it at a profit."
- Estes Kefauver (1955)


Kevin Brettell
I'm not a Republican, and this is patently false.

Matthew Rozsa

Exhibit A: Opposition to increasing taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Americans so as to be help pay for economic stimulus and deficit reduction.

Exhibit B: Opposition to health care reform measures that would prohibit insurance companies from price gouging consumers.

Exhibit C: Opposition to regulations on Wall Street that would render illegal many of the practices which led to the economic meltdown of 2008 but would, simultaneously, significantly reduce the profits margins of banks and investment firms.

Exhibit D: Joe Barton's apology to BP CEO Tony Hayworth for being pressured to compensate Gulf Coast residents harmed by the oil spill.

Exhibit E: Opposition to temporarily (emphasis on "temporarily") increasing the deficit so as to pass economic stimulus adequate to the job creation needs rendered by our unemployment crisis.

Of course, I'll admit that many conservative Democrats have since then joined with their Republican colleagues in supporting such measures. That said, these individuals do so because they are straying from the party fold; without exception it is the left that takes the moral stand on these issues and the right which puts the profits of the privileged ahead of all else. Republicans, sadly, are virtually in lockstep these days when it comes to their plutocratic philosophy.

Kevin Brettell


Exhibit A: Absolute opposition to anything even remotely smelling like cracking down on illegal immigration because it would upset a large part of their base. Couching it in terms of it being racist to do so makes it even more despicable.

Exhibit B: Absolute opposition (with some exceptions, i.e. James Webb) to reforming or getting rid of affirmative action, since it would negatively affect their base, despite the fact that it would do a lot to cut down on the blatant racial preference and racial antagonism practically mandated by current policies.

Quick response to your Exhibit B: Healthcare reform? Good. Creating a public option, but still forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions? Bad. Insurance companies are businesses, and they have to have certain rules they abide by in order to have a reasonable expectation of making a profit. Covering people who only get insurance after they discover some disease is just stupid. That's like telling life insurance companies they have to accept coverage of someone who has a terminal illness. No sane company would do that. You would literally be guaranteeing that you are going to lose money on the person. You want to ensure they have coverage? Fine, do it with the public option (which, I think, not all Republicans opposed, nor did all Democrats support). Forcing insurance companies to actually abide by the contracts they make with people is the right thing to do (and they often don't do it).

Exhibit C: Literally turning financial rules on their head when it came to bailing out the auto industry. Forcing holders of preferred stock and bonds to accept a lower payout (which they were under no legal obligation to do, and in fact had inherently accepted lower investment returns in exchange for reduced risk of just such a thing) so that the union could take a large chunk of ownership was criminal. Many of those stock/bondholders were every day people (and their retirement funds) who got completely screwed so that the Democratic party's cronies could get paid.

Response to your Exhibit D: I'll give you this one. What a prick.

Response to your Exhibit E: I'll give you this one to an extent. Several Democrats have shown that they lack the courage to push this one because they are afraid they won't get elected.

You want generalizations? I'll go back to one I made earlier:

The Democratic Party believes it is perfectly fine to steal from people in order to promote their vision of the common good.

The Republican Party believes it is perfectly fine to allow the "less worthy" to rot.

Both suck.

Cliff Smith

This is probably the single dumbest, narrow minded and uneducated comment I've ever heard uttered by someone who's apparently taken seriously as an intellectual.

No, I am not going to explain why. I don't have time to teach basic political... theory 101 and economics 101. But this guy should have taken them.

Matthew Rozsa

To Kevin:

1) I find it interesting that so many of the criticisms you made of Democrats, regardless of their truth or falsehood, had absolutely nothing to do with the quote that prompted this discussion. Although you claim to not be partisan, the degree to which you brought up partisan topics in ways that had nothing to do with the Kefauver quote suggests otherwise.

2) Actually, many Democrats DO oppose cracking down on illegal immigration, President Obama included. They merely feel that draconian measures such as those passed by Governor Brewer and the Arizona legislature are excessive. Claiming that people who do not support the crushing of basic civil liberties by default are weak on illegal immigration is a bit like saying that anyone who didn't agree with Joe McCarthy in the 1950s was soft on Communism; it established a falsely dichotomous paradigm wherein one either supports a very specific and extreme approach to solving a problem or else is guilty of ignoring the problem altogether.

3) Your claim that Democrats are primarily motivated by a desire to please their base when opposing radical anti-immigration measures is unduly cynical. While I don't deny that many politicians take their positions on this issue for that reason, just as many are no doubt sincere in their advocacy; this, by the way, is the case with politicians from both parties on virtually every significant issue. I challenge you to demonstrate that Democratic politicians are any different on the illegal immigration issue than Republican politicians can be on their own major issues.

4) We don't claim that all opposition to illegal immigration is racist (certainly neither I nor President Obama nor any other prominent Democrat has made that assertion). That said, we do feel that proponents of some of the more extreme measures ARE motivated by racism; such is evidenced by Governor Brewer's many despicable remarks about illegal immigrants, as well as the Arizona legislature's various bills that persecute Latinos in ways that have nothing to do with actual illegal immigration issues (such as, for example, banning courses that promote ethnic solidarity).

5) While I'm inclined to agree with you that affirmative action policies are misoriented and need to be reformed (let me add that I don't feel they should be jettisoned completely, but rather should be changed to benefit people who are economically disadvantaged regardless of race, and then take race into consideration at a lesser level), I once again challenge your assumption that Democrats who support the current set of affirmative action policies are primarily motivated by a desire to please their base. While that is undeniably a factor in many case, how can you be so certain that it is the driving one behind the issue as a whole?

6) I actually agree with you about health care reform. Of course, if your argument is taken to its logical conclusion, then we would need to create a public option so as to guarantee insurance coverage for all Americans while allowing private insurers to practice business in a manner they feel is fiscally sound. That said, insurance companies were overwhelmingly in opposition to this because they feared (not without reason) that any public option which provided reasonably decent service would become so popular that they'd quickly be driven out of business as Americans flocked to them in droves. In short, even though I agree with you that the solution to this problem is the public option, once again that only proves that the conservative side of this issue (which sides with insurance companies in opposition to it) favors the profits of big business over the welfare of the public.
6ii) You are wrong about Republicans supporting the public option, since at least within the Congress itself, opposition to it was unanimous. You are correct that some conservative Democrats did oppose it, but I already addressed that issue in my previous post.

7) The question of the auto bailout is the trickiest issue of all the ones you broached. Yes, the Obama administration's measure financially damaged some Americans; at the same time, they were motivated not solely by a desire to please an important base (although HERE you do have a point, as the Michigan auto unions are key to Democratic victories in that state) but by a genuine concern about having thousands of Americans lose work at a time when the Great Recession was already accelerating. Frankly, I'm not in favor of the auto bailout, as I don't think it was fair for the government to intervene on behalf of one group of workers over another. I'm inclined to agree with you on this, although the systemic problem it speaks to in the Democratic Party - i.e., pleasing its major constituencies even in an unethical manner - is mirrored identically in the Republican Party, whereas the Kefauver observation about Republicanism is not found among Democrats EXCEPT amongst those who already claim to be conservatives and distance their images from what they themselves admit is the progressive tradition of the party itself.

8) I don't see how expecting the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes constitutes stealing. What's more, I don't see how the idea that a fair share should constitute a higher percentage on their part BECAUSE THEY CAN AFFORD TO PAY THAT PERCENTAGE more so than a middle-class citizen isn't "a fair share."

Matthew Rozsa

To Cliff:

To whom are you referring when you speak of "someone who's apparently taken seriously as an intellectual" and is, in your eyes, unworthy of that recognition?

If you're referring to me, I only point to the fact that my "dumb" and "uneducated" comment was abundantly supported by fact-based arguments as soon as it was challenged, thus questioning whether it warrants either of those adjectives. I'll leave the question of "narrow minded" to someone who hasn't defended Sarah Palin's book banning.

If you're referring to Estes Kefauver, then you should know that although he was undoubtedly a very bright man, his distinction is not as an "intellectual" but as a progressive Senator from Tennessee who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952 and 1956 (and wound up serving as the vice presidential candidate on the latter ticket). My main political hero, Adlai Stevenson, wound up beating him both times, so I can't really see that I regret that he lost, but I do still feel he would have made a fine president.

Kevin Brettell

Actually, Matt, my arguments had quite a bit to do with your quote, in two major ways:

1. It makes a sweeping generalization (mine is, essentially, that the Democrats are thieving cowards).

2. You have often said that the Republican base is upper income white men (which I am not) and fools (which I may be). I would argue that, to a very large extent, the Democratic Party's base is made up of various minorities. You posted a quote that is essentially "The Republicans play to their base and make sure they are taken care of in 'solving' to country's problems." I said the same thing about the Democrats.

I honest to God don't have time to address all of your points here, as I have to go to work, but I will address the illegal immigration thing. Several states have tried to enact laws that simply crack down on those who employ illegal immigration. They are attacked, every single time, from the left, as racist. What could possible be racist about wanting to remove the incentive to illegally immigrate?

If you'll notice, in all of our arguments, I have had as many criticisms of the Republican party as I have had of the Democratic party. They are, most of them on both sides of the aisle, thieves, cowards, blowhards, liars, and cheats. They are actively destroying our country. I stand by what I said, but I agree with much of what you have said, both here and in the past. I was simply pounding the counter-argument here; not necessarily espousing ALL of my personal beliefs.

Kevin Brettell

Oops, change "employ illegal immigration" to "employ illegal immigrants." Also, it wasn't just states, but localities.

Kevin Brettell

By the way, have you seen this Daily Show clip? It pretty much illustrates what I'm talking about (liars, thieves, etc.), this time on the conservative end. The part I'm talking about is 3:00 in.

Matthew Rozsa

1) The difference between your sweeping generalization and mine is that, whereas I based it on a factual analysis of Republican positions on key issues, you based yours on a distinctly partisan (and for the most part inaccurate) spin of Democratic arguments. While it is fashionable these days to claim that any sin committed by one party must also be committed in equal measure by the other, the reality is that a line can easily be drawn from the GOP stand on countless economic questions (both the ones I listed and many, many others) and the philosophy outlined by Estes Kefauver. On the other hand, your assertions about Democrats are based not merely on misinterpretations of their motives for each issue, but on ones that generally don't hold up once you scratch beneath the surface (the paper trail verifying Republican cupidity as a motive, meanwhile, is miles and miles long).

2) I agree that both parties play to their bases. The difference, though, is that on economic policy, the Republican base is overwhelmingly that of (a) the privileged and (b) people who they can dupe into thinking that they either are privileged or should cast their lot in with that of the privileged. The Democratic base, on economic matters, tends to be just about everyone else, which by default makes us more egalitarian on economic questions than our Republican counterparts. That is what Kefauver was saying in his statement, and the irony is that even in the argument you're trying to use to disprove it, you wind up providing it with its ultimate verification.

3) I agree that both parties are comprised of thieves, liars, and cowards, although in general those qualities have more to do with the individual candidate him/herself than with the party label (for example, I'd agree that John Kerry and John McCain are honorable men while John Edwards and John Ensign are sleazeballs). That said, the Kefauver quote was geared toward economic questions, and here Republicans are almost lockstep in being plutocratic while Democrats who are guilty of the same transgression commit it because they are selling out to Republicans on those issues.

4) Your characterization of left-wingers as always dismissing complaints about illegal immigration as being racially motivated is just plain wrong. What we DO criticize are the people who go over-the-top with their positions on those issues, from Jan Brewer and Tom Tancredo to Pat Buchanan and the Minutemen. That doesn't mean that no liberal has ever unfairly accused an anti-illegal immigration activist of racism, but I think it is no more fair to brand every liberal with that claim than it is to brand every supporter of stronger border security with the charge of xenophobia.

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