Creating Obamaism

Kristin Teigen

Every President attempts to shape the nation, respond to the times, and leave a legacy that goes beyond the presidential library. Barack Obama, to be fair, has far more on his plate than many presidents – he has to, among other things, fix the economy, end the wars, save the planet from global warming, and reform our healthcare system.

The speech last night was, of course, about the latter. As I listened, though, I didn’t just hear about a health care plan, I heard once again what Obama has chosen as another key task – rejecting the anti-government, individualistic message of Reaganism and redefining of America as a compassionate, intertwined community.

In 1980, the nation was beyond cynical about government – the betrayals of Watergate, the raging inflation, and the hostage crisis in Iran all pointed to an institution that was ineffective at best, deeply corrupt at worst. Instead of reinvigorating the idea of government as a safety net, a protector and a visionary force for good, Ronald Reagan mined America’s cynicism. He said that government was the source of America’s problems -- he would do his best to shrink it. Government, he said, did not solve problems, it “subsidized them.” Ironically, he left Americans burdened with a historic national debt.

Attending this anti-government message, Reagan needed an explanation as to why those who had relied on a government safety net were undeserving. As he cut social services and threw people out on the street, he said that America was about individualism. About boot-strap pulling and rejection of the weak. Anyone who needed an occasional hand-up was the problem, sycophants taking your hard-earned tax dollars.

Every president since Reagan has tried, in their own way, to adopt this idea as their own. Even Bill Clinton, with his announcement that “the era of big government was over” and his cynical 1996 welfare reform bill, attempted to co-opt Reagan’s message for the Democrats.

Barack Obama, in his speech last night, created a new mantra. He acknowledged the strength of American individualism, and the value of debating the size of government, but then went further. He explicitly embraced the power of government as what can be a fundamental source of good. He reiterated what he’s said before, that “the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little…”

He then took a step in reminding us who we are – we are not and don’t have to be cold-hearted characters from an Ayn Rand novel, choosing to keep our blinders on. Obama tells us that we are allowed to, and should, care for our neighbor. We are allowed to, and should, sacrifice at times for our friend. It’s what, he reminds us, builds community, a stronger nation, a place where we can all thrive.

Last night, he said it this way:

“That large-heartedness -- that concern and regard for the plight of others -- is not a partisan feeling. It's not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character -- our ability to stand in other people's shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together, and when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand; a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.”

Yes, Obama has much on his shoulders but also great potential – he can, with our help, create a healthier, more peaceful and more sustainable society for us all. He can also, as he showed last night, create a new place and value for our intertwined national community, our collective civic society, for decades to come.

Comments

  • ben (unverified)
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    "he[Obama] has to...save the planet from global warming" - Kristin Teigen (BO Intellectual)

    Maybe Obama should save the planet first and then fix healthcare?

    "he[Obama] has to...end the wars" - Kristin Teigen (BO Intellectual)

    Regan ended the Cold War. Obama hasn't ended any wars so far. What's the hold-up?

    Not only will 0bama not "end the wars" and "save the planet" LOL - I will be amazed if he doesn't totally screw up health-care to the degree that he loses re-election - and possibly to another democrat.

  • Blue collar Libertarian (unverified)
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    Killing innocent people is not something I can ever agree with. The number one priority should be getting the hell out of Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. doesn't know what it is doing and doesn't understand their culture. Never has and never will. So far Obama has failed.

  • (Show?)

    Yes, I thought the strength of his speech was an argument to even those who believe in very limited government that government efforts are needed now to solve some of the problems before out nation. It was about more than health care. It was about restoring the processes of self government and finding a way for those restored processes to confront the problems before the nation. In don't know that I'd stress the community building phrases as much as you, but Obama was certainly saying we face common problems together as a nation, that a better functioning government was needed, and that those who are not civil or are not serious or are just playing politics are not serving our national interest.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    There was an amazing juxtaposition between the speech and behavior of the president and the hateful outburst of Rep. Joe Wilson. The speech, as Kristin points out, stated clearly a vision of a country and a government that can and should work for the good of its citizens, that can unite around common solutions despite intense debate. What we have seen from the right wing, as typified by Joe Wilson is an angry, hateful culture of tearing down civil society and the rightful functions of government for the public good for the sake of using government to impose an authoritarian religious and conservative culture. We are at a point in our country's history where the extreme right is pursuing a course of splitting the country apart, while we have a president who wants to unite the country around a principle of positive governance and tolerance. It is thoroughly American to be concerned and enact policies which help the public good, not just the private good.

  • Rick (unverified)
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    It is naive at best and divisive at least to characterize Reagan, and by association conservatives, as rejecting the weak and throwing people out in the street. Frankly, the characterization of the opposition as being bad people will do nothing to unify the country. By either side. That some believe that our president is someone who will unify the country has, so far, no basis in reality. If you disagree with the current policies, you are characterized as evil, bad, stupid and worse. That the left sees those who disagree with them as unworthy of hearing and dialoguing with is a huge problem for us all.

    Those on the right and on the left agree that we need to care for and help the less fortunate in our communities. However, they disagree strongly on how to do that.

    The left feels (and do correct me if I am generally wrong) that we need to use the government and the strength of policy, law and taxes to accomplish that help. And that we are not doing as well as we could be as long as there is disparity of wealth.

    The right (and again correct me) thinks that we should use non-governmental help if at all possible, motivated by compassion, to help those less fortunate. They believe that bigger government has historically always ended up making for smaller individuals.

    If the blues really want unity, I suggest they quit dismissing the reds. Nothing makes someone more determined to fight than being told that they are insignificant or evil.

    I wonder often, why the left allows their own to say things about the right that demean and alienate with little or, more often, no comment. Bush is stupid? It's said so often in the left echo chamber that it's accepted as fact. Repubs want to see babies going to bed hungry? Come on. Name one.

    There is nothing unifying about this president or the approaches of his administration. Do I think he's evil? Not at all. Nice guy. Like him. Do I think he's stupid? Not at all. Do I think he's wrong? Yes I do. Do I want him to fail? No, I don’t. Do I want his policies to fail? Yes, I do. I think they will do far more harm than good. Do you hate me now, or think I’m stupid or evil? If so, and think about this carefully, then you are more problem than I am.

    Stop personal attacks, come to compromise and let's get some things done. If we are to meet in the middle, and the starting point is a long ways away from the middle (complete reform of healthcare with the government running it all?), then expect strong resistance until there are more reasonable compromises. But most of all, allow others to discuss it. Honestly, can't we disagree and perhaps help each other in the discussion?

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Kristin:

    He reiterated what he’s said before, that "the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little."

    Bob T:

    What does he, or you, mean by too little? What we had in the mid-1970s? This reminds me of the people who think that whenever the government cuts taxes by, say, 25% or so that "Oh no, laissez-faire is back!", or that getting rid of 10% of current regulations means, "Oh no, laissez-faire has returned!".

    Get real.

    Maybe a pop quiz is in order. Were laws keeping blacks from sitting at the lunch counter, or out of First-Class railroad cars, examples of government intervention in the exonomy, or laissez-faire?

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    come to compromise and let's get some things done

    This assumes a partner with whom one can compromise. I see no empirical evidence that there is such a partner for Mr. Obama. Given that, let's just GET SOME THINGS DONE, the way that every parliamentary democracy on earth operates: the majority enacts its legislative agenda and the next election is a referendum on that effort.

  • Adam503 (unverified)
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    Reagan - Reagan not only didn't win the cold war, both Reagan and Poppa Bush were completely clueless that the Saudi-led decrease in the price of crude oil in the 80's would lower the price of oil so much the Soviets couldn't support their economy with foreign oil sales. No Soviet oil sales. No big grain purchases from the West to supplement poor Soviet food production. No bread in Moscow and Kiev.

    The image that best fits Reagan's politics was the image of Reagan closing state mental hospitals in CA as governor, and Federal mental hospitals as President. Throwing all those seriously mentally ill people out on the street. There's very few people that will stand up for the mentally ill in the political process. The political price he would pay for throwing the mentally ill in the street was very low compared to the money saved per mental patient thrown on the street.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Saint Ronnie did not throw any mentally ill people out on the streets, goddammit, and if you ever say that again, I will find out where you live and show up there to threaten you with Death By Teabag.

    Never forget what Ronnie said: FACTS ARE STUPID THINGS.

  • john (unverified)
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    Rick,

    No, I don't hate you or think you are evil. You were just able to criticize the President in rational terms and tone.

    Sadly you seem to be a minority on your side. The response to the presidents speech was given by someone who has been flirting with "birtherism". Calling out egregious and repugnant lies is not divisive. Spreading them is.

    I'd welcome a reasoned debate that might change my mind or expand my thinking. Unfortunately I cannot have that with someone carrying a picture of the president done up in Nazi regalia as they try to convince me he was born in Kenya and wants to kill my elderly mother.

  • john (unverified)
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    Straw-man meet Bob T. , Bob T. meet....oh, I see you already know each other....

  • Rick (unverified)
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    joel said "the majority enacts its legislative agenda".

    Agreed. That is the prerogative of the majority. But don't try to tell me that the lines in the campaign that Mr. Obama was going to "unite the country", which he is repeating now, have any meaning if he does in fact ignore compromise. Unity if you just agree with me? No thanks.

    I seem to remember that the repubs, when in power. took a lot of flack when they dismissed the other side on some issues. Did that push the country to elect a democratic congress and president? Perhaps. Likely it was a contributing factor.

    Why can't both sides learn from previous mistakes, instead of using them to justify doing them again?

    I think this approach makes my point. Vilify the other side. Really? And repubs are intolerant?

  • Rick (unverified)
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    Thanks John,

    And I agree with you. Idiots is idiots. But characterizing the vast middle by them is repugnant and offensive. I bet we could have a great conversation. But if you told me what my beliefs were based upon those extremists, I wouldn't stick around to continue. As I'm sure you might feel if I did the same to you.

    Conversation is good. And to my point, name calling isn't. I think it's wrong to label someone and by doing so, dismiss all of their thinking.

    So we agree that these people are idiots. But the left has done plenty of it. Were they condemned in their actions? How many pictures of Bush were circulated in comparable characterization (negative, not Nazi).

    Improving the political discourse is up to us, the people. Let's just do it.

  • Joe White (unverified)
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    jdw,

    Here is one of the most succinct summaries of that episode that I've seen:

    'New York was in the habit of committing people who were unable to take care of themselves on the street. A lawsuit was filed against the state of New York and the governor Mario Cuomo. The case was made that a person could not be deprived of liberty because of emotional or mental problems. The New York Supreme Court decided in favor of the plaintiff and ordered New York to begin releasing inmates. This was the beginning of the homeless problem. The ruling spread to other states and the United States Supreme Court decided not to review the original New York case. There is your homeless problem. Yes, Ronald Reagan was President then but it had absolutely nothing to do with the federal government. You can choose to believe the truth or mire yourself in urban legend.'

    from http://www.hbpphosp.com/35/why-do-republicans-deny-that-homelessness-became-a-major-problem-because-of-the-reagan-administration

    I don't know who wrote the summary, and don't much care. The facts are easily verifiable. Lookup the NY case. Thousands of mentally ill were forced out onto the street by this court decision.

    I remember it well since I worked in the mental health field during the same era. Big changes were mandated in the way we operated as a result of it.

  • notchomsky (unverified)
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    To ben and Blue collar Libertarian: DP elites will reject and ignore your arguments every time. In fact, the single-minded pursuit of empire by the RP=DP is one reason why public spending on worthwhile projects like health care will be denied.

    Enjoy your corporate health insurance and your continuing slaughter and torture of innocents.

  • john (unverified)
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    Rick,

    This is going to sound cliche'd but I have many freinds on the right and by and large we have great free wheeling conversations.

    I will admit that there were fringe lefty's that went way overboard on Bush. Kucinich for instance was censured for calling Bush a liar. I think the difference here is that more and more of the crazy talk is coming from higher and higher up the rights food chain. When you have a sitting Senator talking about how he doesn't understand why Obama is so obsessed with RELEASING terroristson US soil, or a sitting congresswomen saying that she agrees that the President has no constitutional right to be such, or...well you can perhaps see my point.

    This isn't Cindy Shehan camping out in Crawford, this is a vice presidential nominee accusing the President of wanting to kill her parents and child.

    This is a very real difference in degree.

  • gl (unverified)
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    Wow progressives and conservatives have really become just a bizzare mirror image of each other. We need more than two parties.

  • Joe White (unverified)
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    John wrote:

    "this is a vice presidential nominee accusing the President of wanting to kill her parents and child"

    Dr Charles Krauthammer makes the point that it's slicker and more subtle than that, but no less real:

    "It's surely not a death panel. But it is subtle pressure applied by society through your doctor. And when you include it in a health-care reform whose major objective is to bend the cost curve downward, you have to be a fool or a knave to deny that it's intended to gently point the patient in a certain direction, toward the corner of the sickroom where stands a ghostly figure, scythe in hand, offering release. "

  • gl (unverified)
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    Seriouly its like watching two monkeys hump a football.

  • john (unverified)
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    I prefer a rugby ball.

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)
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    Why Joe continues his assault on the truth in his world of unicorns and fairies, Saint Ronnie was most certainly at the forefront of the mental illness and homeless problem.

    While it started at the state level, Reagan was most certainly involved as he continued his distanced approach to mental health care by choking off funding. Ronnie signed several block grants that appeared to be a boon to mental health services, but ended up decreasing federal funding for all health care services by 25% with the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981.

    Surprise Surprise! - Reagan actually helped get the de- institutionalization of people with mental illness under way.

    When California passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act in 1967, the intentions was to provide community-based housing and services for the mentally ill. Then-Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the legislation that emptied the state's mental institutions, but the community-based housing and services never materialized (I'm shocked! Unfunded Mandates?!?). Counties, unprepared to deal with thousands of mentally ill people, struggled to develop programs. After the property tax rollback known as Proposition 13 passed in 1978, funding dried up, and the mentally ill started to show up on the streets and in jails and prisons, where many remain today.

  • fred friendly (unverified)
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    After the property tax rollback known as Proposition 13 passed in 1978

    It was no such thing. It was simply Getting Big Government Off Our Backs. Or maybe it had something to do with the Fascist Insect That Sucks The People's Blood. Or freeing us from Communoislamofascists. What's the difference?

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Adam503:

    Throwing all those seriously mentally ill people out on the street.

    Bob T:

    I believe it was a prominent lawsuit filed by the ACLU and perhaps others with them which resulted in many of the mentally ill being let out since it was determined that they were being held against their will. It has become fashionable to claim that Reagan threw them all out onto the street. If wasn't all, then say so.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Rick, on the "compromise" theme, here is the way it works in These United States:

    Republicans in Power: GOP demands that Democrats capitulate to GOP legislative agenda. Democrats politely agree in exchange for the possibility of writing "bipartisan" op-ed items.

    Democrats in Power: GOP demands that Democrats abandon their legislative agenda. Democrats politely agree in exchange for the possibility of writing "bipartisan" op-ed items. (see Wyden, R.)

  • Rick (unverified)
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    Again, the difference is in how to do it. The left believes that the way to solve problems is with the power of law, taxes and policy at a governmental level. In fact, the only way to measure effort for many on the left is how much the government has spent in the effort.

    That this is the only measure makes it easy for those people to say that the right "doesn't care" whenever they cut taxes. It is unfair to say that a lack of governmental involvement means no care, or effort, or spending. But it is interesting that governmental spending is the only way many think of effort. We hear often of people saying that the reason we need certain charities/food banks/shelters/assistance is because the government isn't doing anything to solve the problem. "People who reject the idea that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality" give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition."

    It makes no sense to me to say that republicans don't care when they cut taxes. And it's interesting that the conservatives are documented to give more in charitable giving than the left. Perhaps they just want to shift the burden off of the taxpayer and onto those who can afford to give. Sounds like we may feel the same, but the right wants to keep the government, with it's gigantic overhead, out of it.

    "In 2000, households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more money to charity than households headed by a liberal ($1,600 to $1,227). This discrepancy is not simply an artifact of income differences; on the contrary, liberal families earned an average of 6 percent more per year than conservative families, and conservative families gave more than liberal families within every income class, from poor to middle class to rich." Arthur Brooks (he was raised in a liberal home and is currently a registered independent)

    I'll agree with characterizations that are accurate, but I do believe that many on the left only talk to others on the left and think that their simple talking point statements are always true. They aren't, are they?

    I know that facts are in the eye of the believer, but can we avoid lying?

  • Adam503 (unverified)
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    "Bob T: I believe..."

    You believe wrong.

    As Joe Wilson showed most dramatically last night, just because a right winger screams an accusation, doesn't mean that screech has any merit to it. Wilson screamed that Obama lied about the health plan paying for health care for non-residents. It doesn't. It was Joe Wilson's scream that was a lie.

    Reagan started emptying mental hospitals as CA Gov. in the '60s, a full decade before anyone files lawsuits were files anywhere He started doing the same thing he did in CA as soon as he walked in the front door of the White House.

  • Rick (unverified)
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    Joel, then why did the Democrats turn down Republican amendments that clarified that none of the decisions that would be made by the board proposed in the healthcare plan (a board that would decide the most effective measures to provide health care for people) would in any way affect depriving of needed treatments for patients?

    Sounds like they aren't capitulating to me. Sounds odd, frankly.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    the right wants to keep the government, with it's gigantic overhead, out of it.

    Yep, an example is our fabulously streamlined health care system. Fantastic value for money by keeping guvmint out of it. We are so much better off with private insurers.

    Note to Rick: single-payer systems have LOW OVERHEAD. I know this is ideologically inconvenient.

    But WTF, our Democratic representatives will continue to roll over as long as the GOP allows them to write those "bipartisan" op-ed pieces so beloved of newspaper editors.

  • ben (unverified)
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    "...and the mentally ill started to show up on the streets and in jails and prisons..." - Scott in Damascus

    and the mentally ill were greeted by ACORN activists where they were registered as Democrats and bused to nearby voting booths. They voted with pride for health-care reform and helped create "obamaism". Eventually, they all begin to wear red clothing and boarded buses bound for Antelope Ore...

  • Rick (unverified)
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    So is MediCare, or MedicaAd, or Medi-Cal an example of efficient medical insurance? If Mr. Obama would just say "okay, I'll fix the problems with MediCare/Aid and make it self-sustaining to prove that governement can do this" I would support him whole-heartedly. And if he did it, I'd support single-payer, whole-heartedly. But the evidence is that he can't. Past performance predicts future success or failure, correct? If he wants me to ignore history, I won't. But I'll let him show me he has the ability and capability to change this. But prove it first. Like references in a hiring process, he can't show any good ones, can he? At least on health insurance?

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    And after the mentally ill got to Antelope, yea verily, Glenn Beck spake to them, and they were healed.

  • john (unverified)
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    Rick, Regarding the republican amendments that you referenced, can you link them in their entirety? I'd be curious as to the wording and what else was attached to them. When and how they were submitted would also be helpful.

  • john (unverified)
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    Small point, how could Medicaid be self sustaining?

  • Adam503 (unverified)
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    ben "...ACORN..."

    As Joe Wilson showed most dramatically last night, and ben shows now, just because a right winger screams an accusation, doesn't mean that noise has any merit to it. Wilson screamed that Obama lied about the health plan paying for health care for non-residents. It doesn't.

    ben opened his mouth, and sound came out in some combination of communists, ACORN, fascism, and death panels came out. A relative of ben's then asked ben if he was feeling the confusion, and did he needed his pills early.

  • Jason (unverified)
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    Instead of reinvigorating the idea of government as a safety net, a protector and a visionary force for good, Ronald Reagan mined America’s cynicism. He said that government was the source of America’s problems -- he would do his best to shrink it. Government, he said, did not solve problems, it “subsidized them.”

    Not sure how you can say this when Reagan had one of the highest approval ratings, overall, of any President in U.S. History.

  • Old Ducker (unverified)
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    Obama has ended no wars, in fact he has escalated them, and to-date all the wealth transfers have been from main street to wall street. Oh sure, he wants to create more government dependents but other than that, globalism and the new world order is safe under his tenure.

    All in all, it's just Dubya's third term.

  • Anonymous (unverified)
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    So if Wilson is bad for saying "you lie", is Obama not also bad for lying?

    You could run a pen dry writing down all Obama's lies in his speech.

    The coverage for illegal aliens is just the tip of the iceberg. The "you can keep your plan" bull is just another. The "nobody wants to make compromise work" is demonstrably false -- see the multiple Republican health reform bills which were actually WAVED AT OBAMA as he denied their existence.

    None so blind as those who will not see.

  • Rick (unverified)
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    Hey John,

    I will provide a list of amendments to the bill proposed by Repubs and rejected. This list is mostly complete, but a few are left out. Some additional detail can be found here You can certainly find the text somewhere if you desire and have time.

    It's interesting to note that some of these amendments would directly address the concerns about decisions of care, cost increases, tax increases and several other things we have been told won't happen. Why not specifically address them if we are being told the truth? Seriously, WHY are these being defeated? I don't trust the Repubs a lot, but I do trust the Dems less. Read these and tell me you trust all the selling going on by these guys.

    Anyway, take a look:

    -Improve the legislation by taking out the section of the bill that would create a government-run health plan to compete with private sector health plans.

    • Prevent bureaucrats from making personal medical decisions for patients.

    • Require all Members of Congress to get their health insurance through the proposed government-run plan.

    • Establish a $1 trillion deficit cap.

    • Keep the federal government out of health care decisions.

    • Repeal the government-run health plan if wait times exceed the average wait times in private plans.

    • Suspend the job-killing employer mandate if the national unemployment rate reaches 10 percent.

    • Waive the employer mandate if it will cause layoffs, worker salary cuts, or reductions in hiring.

    • Protect employers from, if an employer offers qualifying health care coverage but an employee rejects it for any reason, the employer being charged with an 8 percent tax on the value of that employee’s wages.

    • Create small business health plans to allow trade, industry, professional, or other business associations to form and purchase health care coverage at a lower cost.

    • Keep unnecessary lawsuits from driving up health costs.

    • Prevent taxpayer-funded health benefits from going to illegal immigrants.

    • Prevent taxpayer funding of abortion.

    • Prevent health care providers from being forced into a government-run plan.

    • Require the government-run plan to operate under the same rules as private health plans.

    • Specify that Congress should read the health care bill before voting on it.

    • Keep President Obama’s tax pledge not to raise taxes.

    • Keep President Obama’s pledge that health care reform will not add to the deficit.

    • Ensure that workers who like their current health plan can keep it.

    • Stop seniors from being stripped of their health care choices.

    • Prohibit unfair advantages for government-run health plan.

    • Keep the federal government from choosing “favored” physicians.

    • Allow states to opt out.

    • Preserve Americans’ health care freedom and choice through Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), ensuring that HSAs would not be shut down

    • Allow Americans to continue to enroll in private individual market health plans.

    • Slow Medicare’s march toward bankruptcy.

    • Prohibit new taxes until Medicare fraud rate is reduced to below 1 percent.

  • Banal Retentive Blog (unverified)
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    This is just rank fraud by Dems. Is BHO practicing "Obamism"? "Obamism" is a stupid vote fraud scam!

    If not, is the interior secretary or DOD policy Obamism? Ever heard of Occam? "Thou shalt not postulate entities without necessity". Sure, you could invoke lots of moving parts to explain the contradiction, but have you disproven the null hypothesis? Simply, it was a fraud to get votes; that's not his policies.

    So, is he acting contrary to his beliefs, or is he consciously defrauding the voters? And what of you? Perfect example of the Dems since 2000, "by any means necessary". "Surely you can't doubt that it's better not having a Rep in the White House. Nothing's perfect". That's it, isn't it? In that simply minded calculus, your response is to ignore the facts and go back to soliciting for the party.

    Hey, in Portland that might fly. "Dumb hacks for Obama".

  • Joe White (unverified)
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    Rick wrote:

    "I will provide a list of amendments to the bill proposed by Repubs and rejected. This list is mostly complete...

    It's interesting to note that some of these amendments would directly address the concerns about decisions of care, cost increases, tax increases and several other things we have been told won't happen. Why not specifically address them if we are being told the truth? Seriously, WHY are these being defeated?"

    I would be surprised if you got very many of the blue people here to discuss these with you in any depth.

    They want to continue to pretend that Republicans don't care about reforms in health care.

  • john (unverified)
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    Hi Rick,

    I'm going to have to do a bit more research as that list isn't the language of the amendments trhemselves or the method/timing of how they were introduced. As you are no doubt aware, both sides will tie good ideas to truly repugnant ones so that they can say lookee here what we tried to do and the other side said no. I think the term is "poison pill". I don't know that that happened to any or most of these but I'm willing to look into it.

    At any rate the link you provided to the investor website didn't really provide any context or language.

    Without that context It's a bit of a logical jump to say that because particular amendments are rejected that the rejectors are actively for such things.

    And Joe,

    It's not that I think "Republicans" universally don't care about reforms in healthcare. I just think that many in Leadership views pinning a loss on Obama as their paramount goal. Hence Waterloo type comments and the ISLAMO/MARXIST/NAZI/KENYAN rhetoric from not just the fringe but Leadership in the Republican Party.

  • Rick (unverified)
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    John,

    Understood! Check it out. I'd like to hear what you find, as I know that some goofy stuff is often slipped into amendments.

    Rick

  • OregonScot (unverified)
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    Rick, A good many of the Republican Bills you listed try to hobble or disable completely any "public option". Surely if Conservatives are to be believed Americans would totally reject "Obamacare" and run to Private insurers , so why all the worry about it? You do believe that the free market can create better health care than any government agency? Dont you? It doesnt look like the GOP believes in private business at all if it cant compete with a broken down ,corrupt government?

  • Rick (unverified)
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    OregonScot,

    I did notice that a few of the amendments were intended to apply specifically to the public option. We likely disagree on the intent of limiting job loss or taxation. Whereas you call it "hobbling" the public option, I would call it "adding accountability" or "codifying fiscal responsibility". If the public option adds job losses or will tax those not receiving benefits, then I don't like it.

    It seems that "public option" has become the do-all, end-all for addressing the needs for health insurance. I don't see it that way. Sure, things could be fixed.

    First of all, change tort laws. Do you know how much your doctor pays for malpractice insurance? I am all for protecting the public from careless healthcare workers. But there is a lot of room for improvement. And you'll note that the Dems didn't like the tort reform amendment. Why is that? Could it be that trial lawyers gave the most money, by far, of all contributors to the Democrats? Trial Lawyers gave 236 million dollars in campaign contributions in 2008. 80% of that money went to members of the Democratic Party. Trial lawyers gave more campaign money than the next 10 largest special interest groups combined.

    In fact, "Five of Biden's 10 biggest lifetime campaign donors are members of law firms that specialize in bringing personal-injury cases" (Bloomberg)

    But aside from that obvious target of cost saving measures, the charge that these "public option" amendments are a "good number" is unfair. Only ONE of the 27 amendments I listed was to remove the public option. Only another TWO can be seen as blocking the plan IF something specific happens (unemployment or similar).

    If you owned a "business" and were competing with the feds "similar business", but they didn't have the restrictions in place that these amendments propose, you wouldn't be able to compete either. Perhaps exactly because the government is corrupt. Soon, they would drive you out of business. If that is the goal of the public option, then be honest. Tell us that. But Mr. Obama says that is specifically not the intent. Unfortunately, the bill and the actions of his party say the opposite. As I said once before, let's just talk civilly about it. In my mind, there are WAY too many doubts and the fast-track of the Dems is highly suspicious.

  • OregonScot (unverified)
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    Rick, what restrictions other than to make a profit and pay obscene salaries to the highest office holders do Private Corporations have that any government entity wouldn"t? The more I hear from both sides the more I think im gravitating to the German model were the health care is non-government owned but entirely non-profit/charity/co-ops. I would have no problem going thjat route. But for me to make obscene profit on DENYING people health care is not an ethical business model. And thats what Insurance companies do..find way to deny, they gotta make money .

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    50 million people without medical insurance in the United States, and when the Democrats discuss possibly, possibly, passing legislation to set up a public option that would insure a few million, what do we hear from so-called conservatives?

    That Mr Obama and the Democratic Party just want to make people dependent uppon government.

    Someone remind me what, exactly, conservatives are conserving, because it sure as hell isn't the health and welfare of folks in dire straits.

    And while we're at it, someone remind me why insurance company whores IN BOTH PARTIES are writing legislation.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Oh, and when it comes to trying to define "Obamaism", remember:

    "progressive" is an political philosophy "Democratic" is a political party

    They're not necessarily the same thing. Progressives should not be suckers.

  • Joe White (unverified)
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    OregonScot wrote:

    "Rick, what restrictions other than to make a profit and pay obscene salaries to the highest office holders do Private Corporations have that any government entity wouldn"t?"

    ummm, they can't print money , for one......

    let's start with that....

  • Joe White (unverified)
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    OregonScot wrote:

    "And thats what Insurance companies do..find way to deny"

    If they deny coverage in violation of the policy, then that is already illegal, is it not?

    Besides enforcing the law, what do you suggest? Why is a new law needed to make illegal what is already illegal?

    Is this not an enforcement issue?

    The hidden problem is that most midsize and large corporations 'self insure' and are exempt from many of the state insurance regulations and enforcement mechanisms that a regular insurance company must abide by.

  • Rick (unverified)
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    Joel,

    Just don't forget a couple of things about those 50 million people. About 40-50% don't want health care. Most CAN afford it, but choose not to buy it. More than 17 million of the uninsured make at least $50,000 per year, 8.4 million make $50,000 to $74,999 per year and 9.1 million make $75,000 or higher.

    Another 45% are without it but will have it within a few months due to employment transition. The Congressional Budget Office says that 45 percent of the uninsured will be insured within four months.

    The Census Bureau puts the number of uninsured at 45.7 million and nearly 10 million are not citizens. Do I think they need care? Of course! And they are able to get it, frankly, pretty easily.

    The Urban Institute found that 25 percent of the uninsured already qualify for government health insurance programs; even the liberal Kaiser Family Foundation puts the number of uninsured Americans who don't qualify for government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 8.2 million and 13.9 million.

    Remember too, that lack of insurance is not lack of health care. In fact, the law in this country says that hospitals and urgent care centers are required to treat anyone who needs care, regardless of ability to pay. The National Center for Policy Analysis estimates that uninsured people get about $1,500 of free health care per year, $6,000 per family of four.

    Is there a problem with millions of people without insurance? Kind of. When you take out those who don't want it, those who will have it very soon and those who are illegally in this country, the numbers are pretty small. When you then consider that those small numbers DO have access to it through any hospital and urgent care center, not to mention low/no cost clinics, then there isn't as much of a problem as we are led to believe.

    Is there enough of a problem to push us to dramatically change the entire industry, about 16% of the US GNP? We will disagree, I'm sure. But it's time for the Democrats to answer these questions and quit calling those who ask them names.

  • Rick (unverified)
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    OregonScot,

    Well, making a profit isn't the horrible thing that you seem to think it is. Remember that profits are distributed to stock holders. LOTS of stock holders are those people managing the 401ks and pensions of the working class, of which I am certainly one.

    Salaries are something to disagree on as well. The most skilled leaders in this country, people with the ability to manage a corporation handling billions of dollars are pretty rare. And frankly, it is purely a left position that we should be forcing those making a lot of money to make less. It really is a socialist position, or Marxist, or whatever you want to call it. But don't lie about it. I have said before, the left is most interested in redistributing wealth. I understand. Really, I do. But there are plenty of problems with that model.

    As far as restrictions? How about that private companies are forced to borrow money from the money market, at going interest rates? The feds are not. How about that the feds can jail you for not complying to their plan? The private companies cannot. How about that the feds can create "qualifiers" to be able to even be approved to be in the plan as a private company that the federal plan will not have to be compliant to? How about forcing taxes on ALL citizens to pay for the plan? Can private companies do that? How about even allowing someone to buy private insurance at all? There have been iterations of this plan that DO allow you to keep your private insurance, but if you leave that insurance, you are only allowed the public "option".

    There are lots of questions. The insurance companies aren't without some compliance and responsibility. But the healthcare system isn't "broken", it can just be improved. Let's not junk the car cause it needs a tune up, eh?

  • Jim (unverified)
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    Rick wrote: "Repubs want to see babies going to bed hungry? Come on. Name one."

    I might add many Democrats to the list. Although I may be off on this, I think it is a fair guess that when we bombed Iraq we made sure many babies that were not killed went to bed hungry. Domestically, when you support an economic program that predictably makes it certain that babies will go to bed hungry, it really does not matter if you want to see that or not. The list is many for the past 8 years, and for this president, just look at the last stimulus. At least bankers' kids will not go hungry.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    I'm in favor of meaningful reform. Any such reform must recognize, and address the issue about Medicare. At its core, Medicare is one of the prime culprits for the current healthcare financing mess in the United States.

    Why?

    Medicare pays health care providers per procedure without any qualifier regarding outcome, thus propogating more procedures.

    Medicare re-imburses most procedures at below cost to the provider which in turn overcharges all other patients to make up the difference.

    Please legislators and President Obama, help make some sense of the Medicare situation as you craft meaningful reform.

  • what? (unverified)
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    "Anyone who needed an occasional hand-up was the problem, sycophants taking your hard-earned tax dollars."

    This is not Reagan's message -- you confuse a hand up with a hand OUT and the difference between the two is enormous. Oversight or spin? I think the answer is obvious....

  • (Show?)

    Kristin, I'm sorry I didn't see this sooner. Your observations about Barack Obama's language are illuminating, but I think there is a question about connecting the idea to action. In practice so far he does not seem to think there is such a thing as too big a military or too many wars, and is too willing to sacrifice the promise of the last section you quote upon the altar of Mars. Likewise with the misdirected and insufficient stimulus and the big bank cronyism that characterizes his financial policy team and his policies -- reflecting a very big source of campaign contributions.

    Unless he can find a way to change course in those areas he will be at risk of having Obamaism come to be defined as saying one thing and doing another.

  • (Show?)

    Bob T., if you happen to come back, of course legally enforced segregation was state coercion. But what about the restrictive covenants that William Rehnquist helped to write very early in his career in Arizona, that at the time he and Barry Goldwater among others defended on grounds of freedom of association and contract?

    The thing is, capitalist markets can't exist without states, to enforce the claims of property and its exclusivity ("private") and to enforce contracts and punish fraud. Once you get even into those basic roles you then have to define what claims and rights the state will enforce and in what ways. Say an employer and a worker make a contract for labor at given pay, and the worker quits over something not specified in the contract, e.g. how the employer enforces work discipline. Should that be a criminal breach of contract, as it was under early modern indenture and apprenticeship laws, or Master and Servant laws in British South Africa and elsewhere in the British Empire in the mid-19th century heyday of liberalism in the old economic sense, or under the Black Codes created in the post-Emancipation U.S. South from 1865-67, before Congressional Radical Reconstruction forced their repeal?

    Are there forms of contract that should not be allowed, e.g. to buy and sell human beings, or to make not joining a union a condition of employment? What about property claims? Should property in human beings be recognized and contracts using it as collateral be enforced? Supposing you'd say no starting de novo, say it's 1800 or 1830 or 1850 and such property has become customary even if that was an error, and deeply woven into the fabric of society. Should the state just abolish it? The British did, with incomplete and uneven compensation; in the U.S. it took civil war.

    Or take customary property systems which were not exclusive and private, but contained overlapping individual usufructory rights. What was the establishment of capitalist private property in land through enclosures but government coercion and theft? Ditto forced expropriation of indigenous lands at gunpoint in various colonies of settlement?

    Was the demand for the conquest of what became the western United States not part of the demands for a "free market"?

    The state is part of civil society, in fact, in classical Scottish liberal political theory it is what creates civil society, the society of public relationships like contracts and employment outside of one's home under the rule of law. The laws governing relationships of property and contract emerge from the demands of private citizens acting in the public realm, as indeed do the laws defining citizenship (should political rights be restricted to owners of property)?

    The same Jim Crow segregationist Democrats who passed the disfranchisement laws and who gained the power in the judiciary to make a mockery of equality before the law under the 14th Amendment and who condoned when they did not actually enact the lawless racial terrorism of the lynching era were the great free-traders of the day -- it was the Democratic Party that ran against tariffs and the Republicans who favored what today would be called "industrial policy" or perhaps protectionism, depending on who's speaking.

  • (Show?)

    Rick, Are you honestly trying to tell me that conservatives don't do exactly the same thing about which you are complaining?

    Spend a little time in the conservative blogosphere imagining you were even a centrist Democrat, or a liberal, never mind anything further left. You know, Free Republic, Michelle Malkin, name your poison-pen. Do any of the people constantly projecting assertions on "you libs" or "those libs" really want to listen, to compromise?

    Or take Jonah Goldberg's fatuous "liberal fascism" thesis -- can anyone who takes it seriously have a civil or respectful conversation with someone they regard as liberal?

    The reduction of all forms of "collectivism" (real and imagined) to the same thing likewise reflects an uninterest in conversation or compromise.

    Please note that I am not saying liberals or those further left are simon pure in these respects. The effort by some to treat effective organizing and mobilization by Tea Party Patriot organizers as "astroturfing" was stupid. But by the same token so are right wing efforts to do the same to organizing and mobilization in support of Obama and health care reform.

    But it's not just the left.

  • paul (unverified)
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    Your article is beyond unbelievable. You stated

    "he said that America was about individualism. About boot-strap pulling and rejection of the weak. Anyone who needed an occasional hand-up was the problem, sycophants taking your hard-earned tax dollars."

    Reagan was about the power of the individual - and helping those incapable of speaking for themselves. That's why he was pro life. You don't get any weaker than an unborn baby in the womb - and he constantly championed their cause.

    If you'd actually read the founding documents- if you'd actually read the US Constitution - and the Federalist Papers, you'd understand that Government is neither merciful nor charitable. Just try not paying your taxes and see how charitable the IRS is. Try to drive an unlicensed vehicle and see how "merciful" the DMV will be.

    Since you put the blame of "deficits" at Reagan's feet, you also have no understanding of how our government functions nor the separation of powers - and who controls what. The Congress has the "Power of the purse" - they spend the money. It was a DEMOCRATIC controlled Congress and Senate that passed those bloated budgets. Reagan even went so far as to drop one on the podium during a speech and called them out for their incompetence and negligence. It was Reagan who continually asked for the line item veto to cut out the perks, the graft and the pork.

    Reagan understood that tyrannical government is the history of the world. I suggest instead of looking to the government to solve your woes, instead of salivating at the alter of the Daily Koz that you instead read Hyek's "The Road To Serfdom".

    I have a great number of liberals in my circle of close friends. Based on what you write, I'm guessing you have NO true conservatives in your inner circle - you have no understanding of their belief system - nor do you care to rationally discuss their viewpoints.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Chris Lowe:

    Bob T., if you happen to come back...

    Bob T:

    Oh, I will. You tossed in a lot of stuff that will require more time for a response in order to stay on par -- check back tomorrow.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • (Show?)

    Look forward to it Bob, always find what you say interesting at least.

  • Rick (unverified)
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    To Chris Lowe:

    Agreed! :-)

    We will certainly disagree on degree. And complaining isn't the word I would choose for what I have said.

    But as I said very early in this discussion, "Improving the political discourse is up to us, the people."

    What irritates me is that the left tends to think that those on the right are bad people. Note the new book by Harry Stein "I can't believe I'm sitting next to a Republican". In this state, the assumption that almost everyone is a liberal or democrat is far spread. And that, if you aren't, you are viewed with shock, amazement and a big dose of incredulity. Why is that good?

    I do think that the approach of some to try to ridicule, peer pressure and generally use playground tactics against the opposition is a bad approach. Bullying and teasing is definitely an approach of the left. Case in point is anytime a conservative leader appears on a liberal college campus to speak. Yelling, taunting and shouting down is seen as righteous and good by the left. And discourse is shut down. How is that good?

    That's why I see much of the left as being in an echo chamber. They hate it when different views are brought forward and they tend to dismiss the message bringer in strange ways. So they tell each other stories that aren't true and then make decisions based upon them.

    Just my thoughts, but respectful disagreement is kinda my point.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Chris Lowe:

    Bob T., if you happen to come back, of course legally enforced segregation was state coercion.

    Bob T:

    And the point there was that, as the interventionist racists saw it, these had to be passed because they knew there'd be far too many whites who'd dare set there own rules about their own establishments. That was seen in the first decade or two following the end of the Civil War when a free black population coupled with a free enterprise system created far more upward mobility for the black population.

    Chris Lowe:

    But what about the restrictive covenants that William Rehnquist helped to write very early in his career in Arizona, that at the time he and Barry Goldwater among others defended on grounds of freedom of association and contract?

    Bob T:

    I don't like them because, like various homeowners' association controls over neighborhoods, they place restrictions on future owners as well as current ones who have already come along after the fact. That in itself is a property rights violation. Rehnquist wasn't a favorite of mine (few are), but don't forget that he provided one of the four votes against the corporate-government forces trying to boot Kelo et al. from their homes in New London while your four favorites in the court voted to look the other way. We could have used another Rehnquist that day.

    Oh, didn't JFK own a home in Washington D.C. with a covenant prohibiting selling it to any blacks? This came out some years back after Ted Kennedy criticized Rehnquist for owning such a home.

    Chris Lowe:

    The thing is, capitalist markets can't exist without states, to enforce the claims of property and its exclusivity ("private") and to enforce contracts and punish fraud.

    Bob T:

    Oh, here we go. I knew it wouldn't take long. Look, voluntary exchanges were taking place long before any states existed and even despite them. No one ever claimed that fraud, aggression, theft, etc were part of a voluntary exchange system. If you read about Icelandic society of about 700 or 800 years ago (for example) you'll find examples of how those abuses were dealt with in what was close to an anarchic society. It may not have been as firm as way as what could have been done with a state with some teeth, but it was a recognition of the rules just the same. You could even say the same thing about free speech -- that without a state, good luck, and that having a state to protect one's right to free expression invites the power to pick winners and losers. I don't buy that. I side with those who a few hundred years ago advocated a governmental system that recognized the rights of people to engage in voluntary exchanges and harmless individual activities and pooled just enough resources to prevent abuses (which included preventing abuses against them, not just by them).

    Chris Lowe:

    Once you get even into those basic roles you then have to define what claims and rights the state will enforce and in what ways. Say an employer and a worker make a contract for labor at given pay, and the worker quits over something not specified in the contract, e.g. how the employer enforces work discipline. Should that be a criminal breach of contract, as it was under early modern indenture and apprenticeship laws, or Master and Servant laws in British South Africa and elsewhere in the British Empire in the mid-19th century heyday of liberalism in the old economic sense, or under the Black Codes created in the post-Emancipation U.S. South from 1865-67, before Congressional Radical Reconstruction forced their repeal?

    Bob T:

    I can't see how legally getting forced labor from someone is something that can exist without government playing a role in establishing this as a contractual item that can be enforced. The most one should expect from a breach of contract is payment for services not delivered, the work eventual being done by others. Many libertarians aren't big on contracts and believe that not honoring contracts eventually causes the contract breaker to lose business. That's true, but there are time sensitive issues at times, but you still cannot expect forced labor.

    Chris Lowe:

    Are there forms of contract that should not be allowed, e.g. to buy and sell human beings

    Bob T:

    That in itself violates a person's ownership of him or herself, so it's dead on arrival. That it took place at one time in the western hemisphere was because the state allowed it and encouraged it to a point. Where's the voluntarism? The Constitution may have recognized this as an existing institution scores of centuries old (hardly a western invention, as many people like to believe), but remember that the Constitution is not what defines a free market system based on voluntary exchange of goods and services with the individual ownership of his or her own body and labor.

    Chris Lowe:

    ...or to make not joining a union a condition of employment?

    Bob T:

    I guess that one is like having to join a union as a condition of employment. I say it's up to the employer, and not recognizing a union is not a violation of your rights. Of course, people are free to form unions and see where it can them. Enough people do it and the employers may deal. But no law should force them, or force them not to.

    Chris Lowe:

    What about property claims? Should property in human beings be recognized and contracts using it as collateral be enforced? Supposing you'd say no starting de novo, say it's 1800 or 1830 or 1850 and such property has become customary even if that was an error, and deeply woven into the fabric of society. Should the state just abolish it? The British did, with incomplete and uneven compensation; in the U.S. it took civil war.

    Bob T:

    I wouldn't be sure about the best way to end it, but it was still not an example of a system in which the individual was in charge of himself and his time. You might as well ask me about what I think of slavery in the Roman Empire. But there was less of an excuse for it in the Muslim world of the 1970s.

    As for the Brits and other Europeans, they have a reputation that is a bit shinier than it deserves to be. They may not have had loads of slaves in the home countries, but that's because their slaves were in their colonies in the Caribbean, and South and Central America. If you look at where slaves were sent from Africa, you'll note that about 3 percent went to what became the Unites States, and perhaps ten or twelve times that went to the Caribbean and South America (the bulk of the rest going to Muslim areas to the east). Yet I never seem to hear people say that Brazil was "founded on slavery", yadda yadda yadda. (By the way, the Confederacy of 1861-65 -- now there was a big powerhouse of an economy with all that free labor. Suuuure it was. People who knew the big picture as early as 1861, such as a soon to be general named Sherman, knew that the south was going to lose because it was not exactly a humming economy). Oh, and Brazil also ended slavery in the 1880s I think, with very little if any squaking. It would have been hard to end it here as others did for I think the plantation class was perhaps far too stubborn, but we had the mechanism if one believe in compensation etc. But again, we're not talking about a free market system in the first place, but people who used some its devices. Even the USSR did that.

    Chris Lowe:

    Or take customary property systems which were not exclusive and private, but contained overlapping individual usufructory rights.

    Bob T:

    The latter is easily done with many lease and rental arrangements, so this is not exactly an automatic problem. But you're obviously referring to earlier examples when the property was not fully claimed I gather. I'm not sure of everything you're referring to, but work performed on site can be a separate issue.

    Chris Lowe:

    What was the establishment of capitalist private property in land through enclosures but government coercion and theft?

    Bob T:

    Not necessarily. It doesn't even have to be seen as "capitalist" private property, either. Plain private property can be seen as a bulwark against abuse of power by the state, and a zone for the protection of one's rights (there are some who think that we should all live on "public property" and have our rights protected through statute, but I wouldn't trust that). Of course, we're still not talking about a free market system for a variety of reasons.

    Chris Lowe:

    Ditto forced expropriation of indigenous lands at gunpoint in various colonies of settlement?

    Bob T:

    I'm losing track of what you're trying to get at. But on this subject, no one likes how it came about, but that still does not mean that the history of mainly European settlement of North America consisted of people conspiring to steal everything. Some of that went on, but most of it was short term responses to events, and overall it was one of the great migrations of people of this planet which did occur every once in a great while. There's also the matter of the very rich land with, compared to most of the rest of the world, very few people per square mile and that wasn't very sustainable once much of the world became aware of it. I'm not saying I like it or not, but that it happened. But I think you're veering way off from Jim Crow.

    Chris Lowe:

    Was the demand for the conquest of what became the western United States not part of the demands for a "free market"?

    Bob T:

    No. On the contrary it was primarily government intervention in forcing these issues. It was one thing to see many people on their own move away from the "crowded" eastern seaboard, and quite another to have the government encourage it and help it along (eventually) through the creation of the transcontinental railroad deals which it wanted so that it could a) provide for quicker response to any perceived Russian encroachment along the west coast during the Civil War (a reasonable concern), and also to facilitate a quicker population growth west of the Mississippi. This was in the government's interest far more than it was in anyone else's interest.

    Chris Lowe:

    The state is part of civil society, in fact, in classical Scottish liberal political theory it is what creates civil society, the society of public relationships like contracts and employment outside of one's home under the rule of law. The laws governing relationships of property and contract emerge from the demands of private citizens acting in the public realm, as indeed do the laws defining citizenship (should political rights be restricted to owners of property)?

    Bob T:

    I'm not an advocate of a system in which think that once we the people create a government with which (as a tool) we can protect our rights and each other's rights, that the government itself becomes extortionist.

    Chris Lowe:

    The same Jim Crow segregationist Democrats who passed the disfranchisement laws and who gained the power in the judiciary to make a mockery of equality before the law under the 14th Amendment and who condoned when they did not actually enact the lawless racial terrorism of the lynching era were the great free-traders of the day

    Bob T:

    I don't see how you or anyone else can make that claim.

    Chris Lowe:

    -- it was the Democratic Party that ran against tariffs and the Republicans who favored what today would be called "industrial policy" or perhaps protectionism, depending on who's speaking.

    Bob T:

    If you're talking about pre-CW policies, yes, there were a number of policies passed ny the national government that we unnecessary interference in the economy (with the souther cotton-producing states taking the hits). Sure, many of us who read know this. But it doesn't disprove any point that I am making.

    We'll go right to the example I cited previously. In the post-bellum south, railroads apparently were interested in one color - green (often a flaw as progressives see it). But this meant that didn't care what color the ticket-buyers were -- if you bought a First Class ticket, that was a contract and it was honored. The southerners hated this for they felt there were "regional concerns" that multi-regional corporations didn't care about in their pursuit of "green". Eventually the souther states passed the laws separating the races (but w/o equal accomodation, despite that claim). A challenge to that led to the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling of 1896, a very anti-free enterprise ruling. Oh those big bad corporations--they don't care about anything but green! Well, in that example this was triggering integration. No doubt many white passengers never cared, just as those who sat at the same table in a hotel dining room with Frederick Douglas accepted his presence even while the hotel manager was trying to get him to leave as an "unwanted" patron. It always seemed to me that the general population was often ahead of numerous local and state governments, if not the Feds, and the objections came primarily from a minority which sadly overpopulated the local governments and sometimes the WHite House (Woody Wilson, the last true racist who lived there).

    The point is, Chris, that the system I defend is empowering to the individual, and that's why the bigots hated it and in many cases still so.

    In fact, you ought to take a look at what was written in the ante-bellum period for it'll curl your little collectivist hairs.

    Try stuff from George Fitzhugh (1806-1881), a Virginia lawyer, free-market hater, member of a big slave-owning family, and pro-slavery writer who wrote the following passages in "Sociology for the South" in 1854 (starting with the usual setting-the-stage passages):

    "France and the Northern States of our Union have alone fully and fairly tried the experiment of a social organization founded upon universal liberty and equality of rights....In France and our Northern States the experiment has already failed."

    "...the political economists and the advocates of liberty and equality propose to enhance the well being of man by trammeling his conduct as little as possible, and encouraging what they call FREE COMPETITION [emphasis in original]. Now, free competition is but another name for liberty and equality."

    "The same law of nature which enables and impels the stronger race to oppress and exterminate the weaker, is constantly at work in the bosom of every society, between its stronger and weaker members. Liberty and equality rather encourage than restrict this law in its deadly operation. A Northern gentleman...once told us that his only objection to domestic slavery was, that it would perpetuate an inferior race, who, under the influence of free trade and free competition, would otherwise disappear from the earth."

    "A half million died of hunger in one year in Ireland - they died because in the eye of the law they were the equals, and liberty had made them the enemies, of their landlords and employers. Had they been vassals or serfs, they would have been beloved, cherished, and taken care of by those same landlords and employers. Slaves never die of hunger, scarcely ever feel want."

    "Self-interest makes the employer and free laborer enemies....The competition among laborers to get employment begets an intestine war.....There is but one remedy for this evil, so inherent in a free society, and that is, to identify the interests of the weak and the strong, the poor and the rich. Domestic Slavery does this far better than any other institution."

    "One of the wildest sects of Communists in France proposes not only to hold all property in common, but to divide the profits, not according to each man's input and labor, but according to each man's wants. Now this is precisely the system of domestic slavery with us. We provide for each slave, in old age and in infancy, in sickness and in health, not according to his labor, but according to his wants. The master's wants are more costly and refined, and he therefore gets a larger share of the profits. A Southern farm is the beau ideal of Communism; it is a joint concern, in which the slave consumes more than the master....and is far happier, because although the concern may fail, he is always sure of a support; he is only transferred to another master to participate in the profits of another concern; he marries when he pleases, because he knows he will have to work no more with a family than without one, and whether he live or die, the family will be taken care of."

    "There is no rivalry, no competition to get employment among slaves, as among free laborers....[Slaves] have no dread of the future - no fear of want."

    Ouch!

    Anyway, thanks, Chris. You always make me think harder when I need to reply to one of your messages.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Sorry, Chris - I meant to sign off with "Thanks again..." rather than "Thanks anyway..." -- there's a difference.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

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    Thanks Bob.

    I feel like we are writing at cross purposes a bit. On the one hand, you are attributing to me at times views I don't hold because of things you don't know about me, based on both some real wider patterns of discourse and a certain amount of stereotyping of those (something which of course also happens in people making assumptions about conservatives, libertarians etc. from relatively lefter standpoints).

    On the other hand, clearly much of what I wrote was too telegraphic or disjoint & I can only commend your efforts to figure out what I was on about as valiant. And clearly some of my assumptions about you are wrong too. For instance I'm fascinated by what you say about contracts.

    So, let me start abstractly and foundationally. I take critical thinking and intellectual honesty seriously, despite also having strongly held views developed with much thought. Both of those things I take to be true of you as well.

    Of course, we always see those values by our own lights, which limits the achievement of the aspiration -- the universe comprehends us, not the other way around. Nonetheless one reason I like to read what you write is that I think I see the same aspirations on your part.

    My guess is that if we drill down deep enough, ultimately many of our differences lie at something like the level of axioms in mathematics. I suspect they have to do with assumptions human nature. In particular, I tend to see humans as inherently simultaneously individual and social beings, where I infer that you probably lay much greater stress on what to me is the individual side of that dual nature. Other views, both moral/ethical and interpretive, flow from that sort of assumption.

    <hr/>

    To get more specific, the matters about which we are discussing form a nexus that is the heart of my intellectual and scholarly interests as a historian.

    My Ph.D. is in African history, with a specific focus on South and southern Africa. I did orals fields in the comparative history of slavery and on the comparative history of peasantries on a global scale. In both cases that includes the transformation, abolition or supplanting of the relationships by the expansion of global markets and monetary systems.

    I also did considerable study on on the anthropology of exchange in non-capitalist societies, in which kinship relationships are central (and the absence of socially recognized and supported kinship is also a central element of slavery, per Orlando Patterson), and on the intellectual history of justifications for European empire and colonization. Those centered on "Christian civilization" of which capitalist markets and ideas about property and labor were integral elements. That history in turn connects to 17th-19th century political philosophy and political economy (that oxymoron) and more recent historical sociology of the creation of capitalist public spheres, the privatization of kinship and partially of religion (at least vis a vis the state).

    What connects all of these at one level is what Karl Polanyi called "the Great Transformation": the dual transition of the development of capitalist societies and the development of industrial societies with highly elaborated divisions of labor. That transition has fascinated social thinkers all across the political spectrum, and particularly classical social theorists such as Marx, Wever and Durkheim, though mostly with European focus.

    But more specifically, and with an African focus or an early modern American focus, what connects them for me is how mixed and not neat nor natural were the categories of classical political economy: land, labor and capital; private property; free wage labor; contract and the rule of law. Understanding how they were mixed (and often remain so in Africa, where private property in land is very far from universally established even now), and came to be separated, is an abiding focus of interest for me.

    Now, a lot of current conservative thought appears superficially to presuppose those capitalist phenomena as inherent in human nature, as did classical liberal political philosophy and political economy. Your recent response makes me aware that I may project too much in assuming that identity of thought.

    Be that as it may, I would say instead that capitalism and its relationships are natural only in the sense that they are obviously within the capacity of human nature to create. Yet that is true among a wide range of capacities to organize social relationships. Most historical human societies have not been capitalist. Thus those phenomena are not natural in the sense of being inherently definitive of in human nature.

    <hr/>

    To be clear, I'm not describing this background to try to assert some kind of argument from authority. There's loads of bad formal scholarship, and much high quality thought carried out outside of the certifications of academic degrees.

    Rather, there is a different double point: First, that I recognize many of the arguments you advance as ones that have considerable weight and often excellent scholarship behind them, e.g. Robert Higgs on the freedpeople's engagements with relatively free markets after the Civil War, or Stanley Engerman's work on capitalism and slavery, and likewise the quality with which you advance them.

    It often seems that you assume that I don't know the arguments or don't regard them as serious, when in fact the most I would say is that I disagree, and often only partially at that, nor in all instances.

    And, second, that I'm also aware of other arguments that also have excellent scholarship behind them. It isn't clear to me how much you may be aware of those.

    But it is clear to me that you sometimes are attributing views to me entirely mistakenly -- e.g. the assumption that I am unaware of or don't care about slavery in the Muslim world.

    Or sometimes you assume ignorance of things that I know like breathing -- e.g. that the U.S. slavery system was on the margins of New World early capitalist plantation slavery, both a small part and unusual in a number of ways.

    More complicated are assumptions of crude versions of ideas something like things I do think, assumed to be held for motives I don't have. For instance, I do believe that there are distinctive features about slavery in the early capitalist world that make it typologically different from most though not all other slavery systems amidst the ubiquity of slavery across human history and societies.

    But my main concern is to understand on the one hand the variety of forms slavery has taken and on the other hand the social historical consequences of the typological distinctiveness. It really is not to make sweeping moralistic claims about races or religions or civilizations.

    Oh, and one other thing. I am not a knee-jerk defender of the Democrats or the Democratic party, now or historically.

    Sorry this is so long. Not sure if it can help end talking at cross purposes. Not sure if blogs as a form of communication let us escape imputing motives to our interlocutors bases on reductive preconceptions of what "the other side" thinks. And it may also be that at the end of the day my academicism won't interest you so much.

    Will try to write some more specific responses to certain points you raise.

    As you say, thanks again.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Chris, reading your background, above, makes me believe we could have some sterling conversations about the world I live in, going deeper. From many dimensions. Thanks for taking the time with the above, as civility grows from such. Sometimes I catch myself feeling so proud of the people I get to call my friends - proud of them. And sometimes people I'll never get to know, ever, such as above, make me leave myself behind, leave behind the pathological straitjacket of self-referentialism... and simply enjoy knowing more about another person who lives in the world.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Chris Lowe:

    My Ph.D. is in African history, with a specific focus on South and southern Africa.

    Bob T:

    Interesting. If I had been more energetic regarding my own website you'd be able to go to it and see images from my trip to South Africa (from Pretoria thru Zululand to Durban and back on different route. Some of them are linked to red arrows on battlefield maps pointing in the direction I was aiming at. I once looked into getting into one of the anti-poacher units, but it's nearly impossible.

    Chris Lowe:

    I did orals fields in the comparative history of slavery and on the comparative history of peasantries on a global scale. In both cases that includes the transformation, abolition or supplanting of the relationships by the expansion of global markets and monetary systems.

    Bob T:

    Expansions of all types can occur, and are not required. A powerful atheistic and collectivist civilization was equally capable of expanding in order to obtain resources and more people. Also, it was not any capitalist dogma that required Imperial Japan to take over area with resources because they could have purchased or traded for the same (just as they've been doing since 1945). Their leaders did not get to define it. Besdies, they ignored doing it the voluntary way that is the system I advocate or what makes it run smoothly, and they paid a huge price for that.

    Chris Lowe:

    Be that as it may, I would say instead that capitalism and its relationships are natural only in the sense that they are obviously within the capacity of human nature to create.

    Bob T:

    Well, one can say that about any system that involves forming a cooperative system, even if some of the players rarely see any of the others. Look, what I seek to point out when I have the chance is that forces of the market exist whether or not they are recognized, followed, or ignored (ike gravity), and that they apply to just about everything and not just buying and selling things (the forces can even explain the mistakes made by Imperial Japan in its use of experienced pilots.) And that capitalism is a system that for the most part recognizes these. What certain individuals or governments do is often despite all of these, and still, they don't get to define it.

    Chris Lowe:

    Yet that is true among a wide range of capacities to organize social relationships. Most historical human societies have not been capitalist. Thus those phenomena are not natural in the sense of being inherently definitive of in human nature.

    Bob T:

    Most historical human societies weren't exactly friendly to free thought and actions, either.

    Chris Lowe:

    Or sometimes you assume ignorance of things that I know like breathing -- e.g. that the U.S. slavery system was on the margins of New World early capitalist plantation slavery, both a small part and unusual in a number of ways.

    Bob T:

    Again, just because some people use aspects of a system doesn't make what they're doing a demonstration of that system. Even Cuba or North Korea has to face the realities of market forces, and if anyone in those places is allowed to keep the shirt on his back this doesn't make it even a fringe example of capitalism.

    If we start with people owning themselves as part of the system, you have a great distortion right away. Force and fraud built in, so all bets are off. And there are also those views that hold that slavery was great because it was "free". Even that was misguided, and something that slave owners held onto mainly because they wanted to believe it. The area we know as Dixie was hardly an economic juggernaut. If you look at the 1830s (just to pick a starting point) up to early 1861 you'll find countless examples of manumissions in which the owner could no longer afford keeping his one slave, or more than a certain number of them, and simply took them to the nearest road and said goodbye. (Even southern courts were making rulings against other slave-owners trying to grab those released slaves as their own, ruling that "once free, always free' applied. The South was hardly as predictable as we may assume.) At some point, the southern states even used something similar to the more modern laws we have controlling our use and disposal of property by prohibiting freeing of slaves unless the latter had enough money to leave the area altogether. After a while there were just "too many" ex-slaves around, working and even running businesses, creating chances of giving ideas to those still in bondage, and these "changing circumstances" led to the mindset behind the infamous Dred Scott decision, all the way from its Missouri ruling to that of the USSC, making it the worst example of the "living Constitution" that I can think of (and there I go, introducing too much information off-topic).

    You might want to check out a fairly new book entitled Hotel: And American History, by A.K. Sandoval-Strausz (a few copies are at the central library) which is interesing enough regarding the history you'd expect to find, but it also includes (mainly in the final sections) how hotels or public accomodations factored into the civil rights movements.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

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    Bob,

    Again, I feel we are writing at cross purposes. There is barely a word you've written above with which I'd disagree and I didn't say what I said to try to prove or argue for what you seem to have inferred. If I had been, of course you'd be right that the arguments would fail.

    The one place where we do disagree is your view that markets are always there even if not recognized. This was the focus of an absolutely huge debate in economic anthropology between "formalists" and "substantivists" in the 1960s into the 1970s, the former of which thought or think as you do, while I would tend to fall in with the latter, who among other things argued that pre-capitalist economies tended to divided things into categories of specialized and incommensurable values.

    BTW I don't mean to be using capitalism in any kind of pejorative sense in any of this, just descriptively.

    When were you in S.A.?

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Chris Lowe:

    The one place where we do disagree is your view that markets are always there even if not recognized.

    Bob T:

    By that I mean either there was open exchange between people acting in their own self interests (and often in defiance of restrictions implemented by the rulers), and (mostly) the forces which had good or bad consequences depending on decisions made regarding the allocation of scarce resources. Even in any primitive or pre-capitalist systems, the forces existed.

    Chris Lowe:

    When were you in S.A.?

    Bob T:

    May of 1993, not long before the national election that ended white rule. In fact, while staying in a small hotel in the small town of Dundee in Natal local Zulu men would meet in one of the rooms to discuss and make arrangements for the handling and overseeing the election activities to take place in and around the town later that year. SOme of the more interesting things were unplanned, such as when we rolled out car into a dry creekbed (Klip River) in the middle of nowhere, and then waited there with a black-white team of local police who came by to watch the vehicle to make sure it wasn't stripped by anyone. Since neither of us had been injured beyond a few cuts we remained there for the tow vehicle for three hours and had a very interesting, casual conversation with these two non-uniformed policemen (seems they had black-white pairs in order to avoid problems that would arise in sending two white cops into a black neighborhood or town, or two black cops into a white one. Eventually we got a ride back into town in the back of one of their paddy wagons. People who go on those insulated tours miss all of this. I have a good photo of me at that scene, and if I could figure out how to post it with this message I'd do so.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

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