October 6th, 2010

Left and right, Britain and here

Commenter Simon Weaver, transplanted Brit, writes:

Not everyone believes Obama is a Marxist. Coming from England he seems pretty right wing to me. The most radical left wing thing he has done since coming into office was merely suggesting a public option during the healthcare debate, and he quickly caved when he saw he was never going to get it through. My dad is a life-long conservative, but if the conservative party said they would abolish the national health service he would not vote for them. I’d like to think that not all conservatives are such trenchant ideologs.

Simon’s comment reflects a basic truth, which is this: the American revolution didn’t end when the peace treaties were signed. Despite their continuing ties of history, language, tradition, culture, and law, Britain and the USA have been diverging even in recent years, particularly since World War II, when war-weary Britain took a sharp turn left and America did not.

Despite a short-lived revival of conservatism—of the Thatcher variety—during the Reagan era, Britain’s right remains way to the left of this country’s. So in that sense Simon is absolutely correct in his second sentence (although not grammatically: dangling participle, man!), “Coming from England [Obama] seems pretty right-wing to me.” But the left-right continuum is scaled quite differently here.

As for Obama’s “merely suggesting” a public option and then caving, that is technically the case, as well. But that’s Obama’s very clever modus operandi: to make sure his fingerprints are not on the HCR bill by offering “suggestions” and leaving it up to Congress to do whatever it can manage to get away with, the lefter the better. Anyone who really studies the bill can see that its long-term goal (and, by extension, Obama’s) is to force down other forms of health insurance and to ultimately drive everyone into the exchanges.

But let’s leave the public option aside for a moment and deal with another question: is his stance on the public option really the most left-wing thing Obama has done as president? No. There is almost nothing the man has done since coming to office that hasn’t been remarkably left wing, despite the fact that the left isn’t happy with him and wants more.

Some of Obama’s most consistently left-wing positions have not been policies per se but rather attitudes expressed repeatedly in speeches. He has adopted a consistently anti-business, anti-capitalist position, fomenting class warfare (common in Britain, I would imagine, but less widespread here in the past) and hatred of the rich. He has come perilously close to nationalizing industries. He is a union man extraordinaire. One of the most astoundingly leftist acts he has performed was his running roughshod over the first creditors’ rights in the Chrysler bailout and putting his favored unions before them, in abrogation of contract law.

His foreign policy has been an interesting amalgam of leftist positions (come down hard on Israel; Bush administration practiced torture; will talk with anyone, even Ahmadinejad) and seemingly more conservative stances such as fighting in Afghanistan. But even when taking the latter position he gives it a twist from the left that betrays his true feelings: he announces a troop building and at the same time announces the withdrawal, and in so doing practically negates the former. His attitude towards leftist Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and his henchman in Honduras was one of Obama’s most shameful and transparently leftist acts, although few remember it at this point because so much has happened to spin our heads since (see this for background).

But let us return to Simon—in this case Simon’s dad. Simon writes:

My dad is a life-long conservative, but if the conservative party said they would abolish the national health service he would not vote for them.

This points out, once again, the difference between what passes for “conservative” in Britain and what the term means here. It also illustrates how entitlements, once ingrained in a population, are very difficult if not impossible to eradicate, because people become dependent on them—and don’t think for a moment that Obama and Pelosi and Reid are not well aware of that. In fact, they bank on it, and it was part of their calculation for extreme haste in passing HCR.

But there’s another point that Simon doesn’t mention but that is vital, and this concerns the different histories of health insurance in this country and in Britain. The latter’s national health service was established after World War II (and designed even before that) as part of a planned cradle-to-grave postwar welfare state. That’s well over sixty years ago, long enough for many generations to have grown very accustomed to it. What’s more, the system was preceded by one that was very piecemeal and highly inadequate, in contrast to ours, which is somewhat flawed but mostly liked by the majority of Americans:

[T]here were no real losers in the Britain of 1948 [when their system was first set up]. Only a tiny handful of very rich people had any experience of great medical care—and they were rich enough to pay higher taxes AND private insurance premiums. Everyone else got roughly the same medical care; but now the middle class got it for nothing as most of the poor had done before. Nobody lost—not for another fifteen years when the quality of medical care began to decline noticeably. And by then they were hooked. By contrast almost every insured American is a potential loser under Obamacare. And some of those considered to be winners—i.e., the currently non-insured—will feel like losers if they are forced to insure and then remain inconveniently healthy.

So comparing the British public’s response to national health care to our own attitude to Obamacare is comparing apples to oranges.

Simon closes with the idea that he hopes not all conservatives are ideologues. But what is conservativism if not an ideology? If a person—conservative or libertarian, socialist or communist—compromises his/her positions because a particular bill happens to be of personal benefit in a particular instance, I can’t say I’d applaud or admire that person. If, on the other hand, that person is voting against his/her own belief system because he/she believes the vote will benefit society as a whole, then it may be time to revisit the underpinnings of that belief system and even to change it.

I don’t praise rigid, unthinking ideologues. But I have no respect for those who compromise their principles in order to get a personal benefit. Political ideology is not—or at least, it should not be—a belief system founded on faith. It should be based on reasoning and logic, and ought to be able to stand up to the facts and empirical evidence of life and history.

52 Responses to “Left and right, Britain and here”

  1. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Typo alert: “dangling particle” probably ought to be “dangling participle,” right?

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    Mrs Whatsit: yes, following the ironclad rule that when one is correcting someone else’s grammar, one always makes some sort of new error oneself.

  3. billm99uk Says:

    Though I’d agree that British politics are generally to the left of American, I wouldn’t use the health care issue to analyse the relative political leanings of Britain and America. It’s a “special case” in Britain and will give you a distorted view of the nation’s political leanings. As Simon pointed out, it attracts plenty of support from people who are otherwise quite right wing. And, as we’ve seen, on the other side you get life-long Labour voters who are very anti-immigration. Not even Mrs. Thatcher would tackle the NHS, although she clearly preferred private medicine herself, as she knew well enough she didn’t have the public support required.

  4. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Neo — it never fails!

  5. Occam's Beard Says:

    Living in Europe, I heard this type of nonsense for years. The unspoken subtext is: Europe is far more left-wing, and they’re doing fine, so what’s America’s problem?

    Except that the premise is not true. Europe is not doing fine. Europe is, in essence, a theme park, and one on life support…from the U.S., but Europeans in general apparently are dull and/or uneducated to figure this out.

    Europe can afford to strike poses because the U.S. does the heavy lifting for world security. The U.S. pays to keep the oceans free for trade that benefits all, including Europe. When problems erupted in the Balkans, what do the Europeans do? After the high-level conferences, the flowery resolutions, the stern calls for peace, and the speechifying by concerned-looking (or constipated – it’s hard to tell which) politicians…they picked up the phone and called Washington to come sort out the mess. They couldn’t/wouldn’t even deal with a problem in Europe on their own, but were willing to hold our coat while we did. (Imagine if we’d asked Europe’s help in dealing with, say, Chiapas. Yeah, I know. Good one.)

    In this respect Europeans’ position is much like that of kids in a family. The kids don’t work, and they have everything they need, so why can’t Dad just kick back too? To some this makes perfect sense. To grownups, not so much.

    The truly amazing thing is that Europeans think the U.S. should be more like Europe, and were rapturous about Obama, but he wouldn’t lift a finger to help Europe. Are they too stupid to realize that? Do they seriously think Obama would take a tough decision and put his cojones on the anvil for them? Hell, he wouldn’t even do that for us, and he’s nominally one of us. What does Obama think about Europe, and especially about the U.K.? The Churchill bust, the snubs to Brown, and his policy toward Las Malvinas (the erstwhile Falklands) couldn’t be clearer: he wouldn’t cross the street to save Europe.

  6. Artfldgr Says:

    what is conservativism if not an ideology

    opposition to ideology, any ideology, and putting empiricism, experience, responsbility and all that

    RATHER than think that adopting a simplification of the world, and a missive to a purpose in a purposeless universe, letting others think for you, which so happens to favor the missives and result in slavery, is the best choice to live by and have a real life… (as opposed to be alive in a cage until some statist needs you)

    conservative measn to protect the best while moving forward, to conserve wisdom and knowlege, and in essence insure the pluribus is the key to unem

  7. Occam's Beard Says:

    Let’s look further at the case of the U.K., an object lesson in what not to do, and how left-wing policies destroy economies and societies in direct proportion to the degree to which those policies are actually implemented.

    WWII inflicted great destruction on Britain and, of course, even more on Germany. Both countries received Marshall Plan aid, with Britain receiving over twice as much as Germany. Aid to Germany went to rebuilding industrial plant, laying the groundwork for the Wirtschaftswunder .

    Britain, however, under Clement Atlee (Labour, of course), spent theirs on consumption, specifically building the NHS and tower blocks (public housing that the U.K. is now busily dynamiting, and much like “the projects” here, rife with social problems). Britain’s economy sputtered for decades thereafter, leading Britain to be termed the “Sick Man of Europe.” Simon’s probably too young to remember this, but during the “Winter of Discontent” public sector workers struck (against a Labour government, no less). Britain only had electricity every other day, trash went uncollected, and the dead went unburied.

    So…are these the policies we should emulate? We are emulating them, but to my alarm.

    Bottom line: left-wing policies do not work, have never worked, and will never work. Not here, not in Europe, not in the USSR, not in the PRC, not in Cuba, not in Zimbabwe, not in Venezuela, not in North Korea. Nowhere. At any time. Any country that implements such policies suffers in direct proportion to the degree to which they are implemented. That is incontrovertible. So why do people keep advocating these policies?

  8. Gringo Says:

    Simon Weaver:

    I’d like to think that not all conservatives are such trenchant ideologs.

    Do you mean this ideologue ?

    “To avoid being mistaken for a sellout,I chose my friends carefully.The more politically active black students.The foreign students.The Chicanos.The Marxist Professors and the structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets.”

    You know who I am talking about: the pragmatic middle of the roader who was the most liberal US Senator in 2007, according to the National Journal’s vote rankings.

    Apparently in this case the child, or the late adolescent at least, was indeed father to the man.

    We now know him as President of the United States.

  9. Mike Mc. Says:

    I lived in the UK for three years 2000-03.

    The UK is “over”. What America thinks it is, and what it actually is are two different things.

    Simon is right that Obama would be “right wing” over there.

    Nothing more needs to be said.

    The Brits truly have no idea who or what they are anymore. For real. They have shows on it where everyone concludes they are nothing. I swear.. The place is a nation in name only. It’s more shipwreck that hasn’t quite sunk yet but there is no doubt anymore that it will. It can’t be saved./

    The UK should be the biggest object lesson there is for the US. Where they are is where we will be if we act like them. America is different. If we want to survive, we’d make make sure we continue to be.

  10. billm99uk Says:

    Britain’s economy sputtered for decades thereafter, leading Britain to be termed the “Sick Man of Europe.”

    And you know, the funny thing was, when Britain’s last domestically owned mass-production car company (the MG Rover Group) went into receivership in 2005 under the last Labour administration, our equivalents of the UAW went to the government and asked for the usual bailout. When Tony Blair said no way, they looked to the country for support… only to find there wasn’t any. It was a remarkably uncontroversial decision. You see, people can learn from results eventually ;)

  11. Occam's Beard Says:

    Bill, that’s great news.

    I didn’t mean to come off as harsh above, but the notion that we should emulate policies that have demonstrably led to disaster in the past strikes me as madness of the first water.

    It’s like getting tips on how to live your life from Lindsay Lohan.

  12. chuck Says:

    Britain has a conservative party? That’s news to me. It would be nice if they had one, though, it might help slow the ongoing collapse of Britain into senile left wing dementia.

  13. anna Says:

    I read somewhere that for 9 out of the last 10 centuries, the country with the biggest GDP was China (don’t quote me…) The only one where they didn’t was the 20th. Hmmm what happened in China in the 20th century?

    Now, of course, the Chicoms are the biggest capitalists in the world…

    http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/015035.html

  14. Occam's Beard Says:

    The Chinese have an almost matchless entrepreneurial gift. It was a tragedy that they had socialism imposed on them. All the Chicoms had to do was get out of the way, or even just not watch people too closely, for it to blossom.

  15. betsybounds Says:

    “This . . . is what happens. It indicates the non-frenzied feeding of a large squalus – possibly Longimanus or Isurus glauca.”

    Jaws, of course.

    This is what happens. These guys are eating us alive. The bite radius will end up being greater than we can possibly imagine, and we will have no viscera left.

    Sorry, I guess I’m not in the most optimistic frame of mind tonight.

  16. Tom Says:

    Simon’s statement, “Not everyone believes Obama is a Marxist” is very telling and very stupid, even as rhetoric. With an opening salvo like that, one can safely conclude the rest of his remarks will be trivial at best, ignorant at worst.

    I guess his remark symbolizes the “consensus”, aka unanimity, so valued, and so often imposed by the Left upon itself, and on the rest of us when the left is in power.
    Am I the only one to remember national
    Democratic conventions at which one nominee finally got a 50%, plus one, vote, and the next motion was to declare the nomination, “unanimous” by majority vote?

  17. betsybounds Says:

    This is one of the things that’s got me right now:

    http://tinyurl.com/37defja

    And this is another:

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/43199.html

    There’re lots more, of course.

    Back in my youth, when I was a rather more typical Boomer, we used to preface our predictions of better time to come with, “Come the Revolution, . . . ” Well, it’s here.

    “. . . change has come to America. The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.” — Barak Hussein Obama, November 5, 2008.

  18. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Sweden, however, may be considering Obama left-wing these days.

    I invite Simon to come live in non-coastal America awhile, or at least get his news about us from other sources.

    Or he could just talk to the Eastern Europeans.

  19. Scott Says:

    When left wing British born blogger Andrew Sullivan claims to be a political conservative, and he sincerely believes it, then that’s all the evidence one needs to conclude conservatism in the U.S. doesn’t mean what it means in the U.K.

  20. nyomythus Says:

    That’s something I quarrel with the Left about, if a person earned a lot of money then good for them. I can envy it in a healthy way by striving to be just as smart as they are … I don’t have a good knack for business though I’m not frivolous with money. Ultimately, if I don’t earn enough money to be rich then that’s my problem … I simply have to continue to strive to be better.

  21. Tom the Redhunter Says:

    “…entitlements, once ingrained in a population, are very difficult if not impossible to eradicate, because people become dependent on them—and don’t think for a moment that Obama and Pelosi and Reid are not well aware of that.”

    ding! ding! ding! give that woman a cigar. This is indeed at the heart of the liberal agenda.

    Occam’s Beard said “Europe can afford to strike poses because the U.S. does the heavy lifting for world security.”

    True enough, but as you know it’s much worse than that. Here is their problem

    1. Low birthrate among natives
    2. High retirement benefits, early retirement, etc
    3. Massive Muslim immigration, and they’re not assimilating

    Of course it varies by country, but all this is a ticking time bomb. The baby boomers will consume a huge about of resources when they enter retirement; think our problems with Social Security times 5 or so. Again, it varies by country, but since they’re all tied together when the economic-entitlement bomb explodes the effects will not be contained in but will cascade across the continent.

    The problem of population remains hidden because of the huge number of baby boomers. But when they die suddenly the population ratios will shift, and that tiny Muslim minority will be quite large.

    And then it’ll truly be America Alone.

  22. George Says:

    A few years ago I read a review of Alastair Campbell’s book on his times with Tony Blair. The reviewer related Campbell’s account of a trip to the US, during which he met with the Washington Post’s editorial board. Campbell described the board as “very right wing.” You can imagine where that leaves someone like Rush in the European mind.

  23. strcpy Says:

    Another issue with Britain’s pontificating is that they seem to think we are proposing what they are.

    In another blog I read a while back there was a great deal of arguing about unions – the brits were confused as to why otherwise sane people had an irrational hatred of unions.

    After arguing one of the Brits finally explained about how their system operates – they are not required to join one, they have several they can join, they can move around them, and there are laws protecting money. Further if they went on “strike” you didn’t have too – you could opt out of anything the unions wanted.

    Once they understood that we were forced to join them to work in many sectors, were forced to do what they said, there were little to no regulations on what they did with their dues, and a great deal of other things (such as in a heavy union shop no one but an electrician is allowed to plug a device into a wall outlet) they too said that was crazy stupid.

    I’ve found health care to be a similar idea (and it runs both ways too – we paint their institutions through our experiences when that isn’t necessarily true), what we got was an entitlement program that seeks to punish health care providers for being “greedy”.

    It is a misnomer to call what we do here socialism – it lends it a higher degree of support than it should get. It is *not* socialism, not that socialism has been great to Europe either but at least it *is* socialism. What we have is theft and an entitlement class that isn’t really around in most of the European countries. No country can survive long doing that, at least with socialism it is a long slow slide into gray.

    Frankly I find most of our liberals/leftist seeking Social Justice whereas most European liberal/leftist are seeking an economy that doesn’t allow truly poor. While similar in goals and methods the former tends to not really care so much about consequences and the *aim* is to hurt rich people. In the latter hurting rich people is a consequence, not so much a feature. The latter at least has a chance of having their minds changed if they can see what the outcomes of their ideas achieve (though it may take a great deal to do so, the *possibility* is there), the former doesn’t give a flip and as long as the greedy rich people are brought down all else is worth it.

  24. Occam's Beard Says:

    Or he could just talk to the Eastern Europeans.

    Good point. I have several friends from Poland (one of whom who had been a key member of Solidarity), and they to a man consider Reagan to be God. Their only criticism is that he was a little too soft on socialism. Let’s bring over more of them and fewer wet Brits.

    That’s something I quarrel with the Left about, if a person earned a lot of money then good for them.

    This is a key point of divergence not only between liberals and Americans, but between Europeans and Americans, and a fundamental one at that.

    Most Europeans subconsciously assume that the pie is fixed in size, and thus one person’s success comes at the expense of another’s deprivation. They thus consider the successful to be greedy, and the deprived to be victims of that greed. Astonishingly, to Americans, they have more sympathy with those who inherit wealth; they’re wealthy, sure, but it’s not their fault. They couldn’t help who their parents were, could they?

    Americans, of course, have exactly the opposite perspective in all respects. We do not consider the pie fixed in size (which, of course, historically is absolutely true), and thus do not consider the successful to have achieved their success at the expense of the losers. Furthermore, we hold the successful in high regard, whereas we tolerate (at best) the useless who happened to be pulled out of the right crotch. We don’t resent the succesful; we admire them. This alone was one of the biggest adjustments I had to make when living in Europe.

  25. Occam's Beard Says:

    The reviewer related Campbell’s account of a trip to the US, during which he met with the Washington Post’s editorial board. Campbell described the board as “very right wing.” You can imagine where that leaves someone like Rush in the European mind.

    Personal anecdote. The university in which I taught in Europe had a problem with people not doing their jobs on certain national holidays to which they specifically were not entitled. Every year we used to have a departmental meeting at which we considered what to do about this, and every year we used to send out a letter reminding them that those national holidays did not pertain to them, by condition of employment. My solution was simple: remind those involved yet again of their obligations, and then fire everyone who didn’t discharge those obligations. Simple. Problem solved.

    All of the other faculty looked at me as though I’d lost my mind, and suggested amputating right hands or something. I pointed out – to no avail – that they wouldn’t pay people for, e.g., painting their houses, if they hadn’t actually done so, would they?

    Upshot? The problem continued right up until the day I left. It continues to this day.

    But of course you knew this.

    This is why Europe is in trouble.

  26. Occam's Beard Says:

    Frankly I find most of our liberals/leftist seeking Social Justice whereas most European liberal/leftist are seeking an economy that doesn’t allow truly poor.

    Here’s the bottom line: no one – no one – in Europe or North America is truly poor. Sure, there are people who can’t afford premium cable, or who don’t have a nice car, or who can’t afford designer jeans, or who can’t afford to vacation in Hawaii, or who have had to put with the same cell phone for several years, but that’s not poor. “Poor” means not having adequate clothing, shelter, or food, i.e., insufficently met physiological requirements. “Poor” means not having enough to eat (and pace liberals, no one – not a single individual – in the United States goes hungry, apart from supermodels. (We have an obesity epidemic, remember? And where is it most concentrated? Among the bottom socioeconomic strata. When’s the last time anyone saw a black mother who looked undernourished? Most weigh about 300 lbs.)

    “Poor” doesn’t mean having less than someone else. Even the poorest person in America today lives better than kings in the Renaissance, who could only dream of indoor plumbing, central heating, and air conditioning (never mind color TV, cell phones, etc.). I’ve traveled extensively in the Third World, and most people there would kill to be “poor” in the U.S. Poverty has to be defined by an absolute standard – insufficiency/inadequacy of food, clothing, shelter, transportation – and not by a relative one. Hell, we’re all poor relative to George Soros, so hook us up with some cash, George.

  27. Oblio Says:

    If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.

    –Wm Blake

  28. Rupert Says:

    Universal Healthcare seems to always poll very high in the countries that have it. I’m assuming that most of those polled have never been seriously ill, and so have no idea of the problems, but like the warm fuzzy feeling of “free” health care.
    Are there any polls of people who are chronically ill or have been through a major illness? The anecdotal stories are bone chilling to say the least.

  29. SteveH Says:

    The welfare state in all its forms can be summarized as a game of blackjack where the people choose to stick at 11 points.

  30. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Occam.
    When Reagan’s programs began improving the economy, the media had a problem.
    (Reagan said the programs must be working. They’re not called “reaganomics” any longer.)
    The media addressed the problem by adding a heart wrencher each evening about somebody who wasn’t making it, to balance the unfortunate good news about the economy in general. This ceased when a dem was elected, which you would expect.
    CBS did a documentary about the homeless, called “People Like Us” to reassure the libs and those overseas that the US was still awash in misery. Their poster child was a guy called “Bill”, a tall guy with a baseball hat, and a home which nobody mentioned, as the exemplar of American rottenness.
    CBS, in a kind of outreach program, sent the documentary around the world. Bill even toured Moscow to explain things.
    When the USSR collapsed, we found that Soviet middle class folks who’d seen CBS’ effort thought their ambition should be to go to the US and be poor.

  31. billm99uk Says:

    I have several friends from Poland (one of whom who had been a key member of Solidarity), and they to a man consider Reagan to be God. Their only criticism is that he was a little too soft on socialism. Let’s bring over more of them and fewer wet Brits.

    LOL Hands off! Most of them seem to be coming here these days. Can’t get served in a shop these days without hearing the guys behind the till chatting away in Polish. OK, the weather’s lousy, but you can pop home at weekends, difficult to do if you’re living in New York!

  32. dicentra Says:

    Coming from England [Obama] seems pretty right-wing to me.

    Oh dear. It should be:

    “Coming from England, I find Obama to be pretty right-wing.”

    And now to find MY error in the correction. Carry on…

  33. Artfldgr Says:

    In russia it was called Communism
    in Germany i was called Fascism
    in China it was called Maoism
    in the US it was called Progressivism
    in England it was called Fabianism

    see a pattern?

    a rose by any other name is not a rose. right?

    which is why when it was for eugenics and social darwinism of the progressives and called the negro project with the purpose of exterminating the unfit and uncooperative, and the born opppressors, it was a very bad thing.

    but with a new coat of paint, a new name, planned parenthood, its completely something different, despite its key to progressives, they still run it, they put more in race neighborhoods, they accept donations targeted to races (Which makes targeted finances to race extermination a charity goodness), and so on.

    this is akin to curing food poisoning by painting the dining room and rearranging the furniture AND calling oneself elite, superior, genetic stars, and geniuses, for the idea…

  34. Artfldgr Says:

    when you discuss that those things are different its like two guys discussing how different their german shepards are…. and forgetting that theya re all german shepards (marxists)

  35. Occam's Beard Says:

    Universal Healthcare seems to always poll very high in the countries that have it. I’m assuming that most of those polled have never been seriously ill, and so have no idea of the problems, but like the warm fuzzy feeling of “free” health care.

    I discount those polls, for several reasons, in addition to the one you cited (which is certainly true).

    First, everyone tends to be conservative about healthcare, in the sense of not wanting it messed with, for fear of ending up with something worse. In fact, that’s one of the drivers of opposition to ObamaCare.

    Second, those polled have no idea what they’re paying. None whatever, as evidenced by the fact that they think their healthcare is “free.” So for the cognitively challenged, the choice comes down to moving from “free” healthcare they’re familiar with to paying for healthcare of unknown quality.

    Third, those polled not only have no idea what they themselves are paying for healthcare, but have even less idea of what the national economy as a whole is paying. What would the national economy be like if it didn’t have the burden of a national healthcare system? People have no incentive to husband resources that are “free.” Maybe the economy would boom, the unemployed would find jobs, and everyone would have a more prosperous future at a new equilibrium point.

  36. Army Mom Says:

    I have a question for those who understand the mentality abroad. I have never travelled outside the US, mostly because I cannot afford to not because of any predjudices.

    My father in-law is currently living and working in Norway. He comes from a very conservative part of Texas. Ever since he has been there he has been saying that we should have healthcare like them and is all in favor of Obamacare. He has also come to be very anti-Reagan saying that he de-regulated business in a very bad way. This continues now to all Republicans in that he says that the GOP only wants to keep people poor and working forever. None of the family understand why he thinks this but this has come about since he has been in Norway.

    One side note is that my FIL has a very high IQ and much has been made of that. However, we have all seen times when from a common sense perspective that he does some really dumb things. Could some of what we are seeing be a combination of a “I’m smarter than you so I know better” elitist attitude coming out? Can much of this be explained by his location and the culture there? We are at a loss to understand him anymore which has caused family to avoid him when he is in the US.

    I would appreciate thoughts.

  37. Occam's Beard Says:

    Army Mom, it’s not necessarily intellectual pretension, but more likely to be a function of marinating in a leftist milieu. The social pressure, being enormous and ubiquitous, is difficult to resist.

    I initially spent my time in Europe being introduced as “an American, but one of the good ones,” because as an academic I was presumed to be a liberal. (Hah!) Once it became apparent that I was one of the bad (feral) ones, I was subjected to anti-American snark on a pretty regular basis. But being of a generally gnarly nature, as regulars here will know, and having a fairly thick political carapace, it didn’t have any effect. But it wasn’t fun.

  38. Army Mom Says:

    Thanks OB. I wonder if despite that high IQ that he fell into the put of peer pressure to be one of the “good” Americans. He is awfully far from home and has shown that he can be a bit flakey at times.

  39. Manju Says:

    One of the most astoundingly leftist acts he has performed was his running roughshod over the first creditors’ rights in the Chrysler bailout and putting his favored unions before them, in abrogation of contract law.

    This is incorrect. There was no abrogation of contract law and Obama acted like fianaiciers of last resort often do.

    When you invest in a distressed company, or any company that will need additional capital to survive (like start-ups) you always have finance risk. Basically the last money in calls the shots, becasue without that money the only alternative is liquidation (unless another source of capital emerges).

    So, if a company is on the verge of liquidation, the person providing the capital to stave that off will almost always demand the existing shareholders or lenders tear up their contract and force them to renegotiate to worse terms.

    In this particular case they were offerered a pre-packed bankrupcy, which is not unusual. In the prepacked bankrupcy the hedgies senior debt gets demoted to subordated, which in turn lowers the value of their security.

    so they said no, we want a regualr bankrupcy where we’ll get the bulk of the liquidated assets and make even more money. only, thats bunk. the only reason they bought the senior debt (in the secondary maket) was becasue they thought a liquidation was politically unthinkable. They knew they were going to get an offer for their debt and would never face liquidation, where they stood to gain pennies at best. chrylers assets were worthless unless you were planning to use thier IP assets, ie restart their brand. but that takes a lot work and no hedgie wanted any part of that.

    however, the risk of liquidation provided them with leverage against obama, since everyone knew obama could not afford to let chrysler go under (the prepacked bankrupcy handed the company to fiat and allowed them to continue).

    so they pretended that they would prefer a liquidation to subordinated debt hoping that obama would blink in the game of chicken…since liquidaton was politically unfeasable. they saw a way of getting a better deal thant the one offerered.

    they only problem was that they needed to keep the coailiton of lenders in lockstep for the holdout. but the other banks blinked, not wanting to risk getting mere pennies in liquidation. the senior debthoders didn’t have enough voting rights to overcome this, leaving them to whine that the other lenders were only going along becasue they got tarp money.

    since no one else came forth with a better deal the judge approved the govt one. obama outplayed them. end of story.

  40. neo-neocon Says:

    Manju: I beg to differ.

    Your argument is a familiar one to anyone who has read this piece in Commonweal. And my argument is a familiar one to anyone who has read this piece in the Atlantic.

    The bottom line is that what Obama did violates the trust put into contracts and the rules about what generally happens when a company goes bankrupt. Chrysler went de facto bankrupt but the federal government kept it from going de jure bankrupt though the bailout and restructuring, which allowed Obama to dictate the terms and choose to favor his friends the unions over the hedge funds. Although of course he did this legally, it has the powerful effect of sending a message that Obama can (and will) do nearly anything he wants to a company in trouble, and that he is not a friend to rich investors, who can no longer rely on the usual rules.

    If you are a Marxist you might think that’s a good thing, but I happen to think it is a bad one. In the end, it has neither saved Michigan from unemployment nor fostered a climate in the country as a whole in which economic growth and investment is encouraged. Indeed, it has had a marked chilling effect.

  41. thomass Says:

    “It also illustrates how entitlements, once ingrained in a population, are very difficult if not impossible to eradicate, because people become dependent on them”

    All true but add that the US is the left’s boogieman… and our [nonpublic] healthcare was one of their main issues (i.e., demonized all the time). All I can say is the result, even in the UK, was constant negative propaganda about the US system. People have been ‘taught’, as part of bashing the US, that private medical care is dangerous… now they fear change.

  42. dicentra Says:

    it’s not necessarily intellectual pretension, but more likely to be a function of marinating in a leftist milieu.

    Also, there are various types of intelligence, but only some of it is measured by an IQ test, and that’s the kind of intelligence that gets you rewarded by academia.

    It’s the quintessential “book larnin” versus horse sense dichotomy, wherein a man can master ancient languages or complex mathematics but doesn’t know how to spot a con.

  43. Maggie's Farm Says:

    Friday morning links…

    Rejection Therapy
    Sullivan: There was no housing bubble
    Surber: An epidemic of epidemics
    Each one requiring a government program.
    Jay Cost: The Latest Sign of the Dem-Pocalypse
    Life in the sticks: More on the South Fulton FD Brouhaha
    Poverty Pimp…

  44. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Neo.
    An additional result of the zero take over of GM and Chrysler is a resentment toward the companies–possibly as a partial proxy for resentment toward the government–and it is not uncommon to hear people who didn’t have a lot of brand loyalty, or possibly they did, say they will not buy a “Government Motors” vehicle again.
    So that’s Ford or foreign.
    Rented a Sonata for a drive to Texas. Terrific car. Roomy, great amenities, drove well. The MPG indicator was showing in the high thirties on the freeway and the low forties on level highways at fifty mph or so.
    Loyalty to bailed-out unions isn’t going to get me to buy GM or Chrysler again. I’ll stick to Ford. Maybe they’ll get as good as a Sonata.

  45. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Aubrey: Have you tried a Fusion?

  46. Manju Says:

    The bottom line is that what Obama did violates the trust put into contracts

    Well, I don’t know what a violation of “the trust” is. Either you violate a contract or you don’t. If you think you have enough leverage to make someone renegotiate their contract, that’s part of the freedom to contract as well. Done all the time.

    rules about what generally happens when a company goes bankrupt

    the rule is the senior lenders get paid first, or more specifically, people get paid as their contract stipulates. if you renegotiate your contract then you get paid the way the renegotiation says. If you don’t like what the renegotiated offers says, then don’t take it. But thats not what the hedge funds did. they took the offer but still whined. It a free country. nobody put a gun to their head.

    Chrysler went de facto bankrupt but the federal government kept it from going de jure bankrupt though the bailout and restructuring

    I’m not a lawyer, so maybe im mistreading what is meant by de jure, but chrysler went bankrupt. It was a strucutred or prepacked bankrupcy, again not uncommon, but it was indeed a bankruptcy. Businesses operate out of bankruptcy all the time.

    which allowed Obama to dictate the terms and choose to favor his friends the unions over the hedge funds

    well the entity that puts in the last money dictates the terms. if you don’t like it then don’t take the damn money. The hedges in question bought the debt only because they thought obama would infuse cash into the company. they weren’t the original lenders. they were speculators, which is fine.

    but if you’re speculating and hoping for a government handout, i don’t see how you can complain about a…well, government handout.

  47. Thomass Says:

    “Maybe they’ll get as good as a Sonata.”

    Maybe… but it will cost a lot (like 1/3 to 1/2) more.

    I had a Sonata with every option they had, out the door for $20K. It was 10 years ago, better exchange rates probably… but still….

  48. neo-neocon Says:

    Manju: I reversed “de jure” and “de facto.” That’s what I get for commenting quickly. And here’s another quick comment—

    In the vast majority of bankruptcies the federal government is not an involved participant in the negotiations. In this case, however, the government was able to dictate the terms, exactly because it was a big player with money in the game. As such, it could do what it did; no one disputes that. But it violated the usual rules of order of creditors on which investors rely, and in doing so it had a chilling effect on investments.

    I believe that Chrysler should not have been bailed out. These continual bailouts reward waste and stupidity, and give the government the license to reward its supporters such as unions at the expense of the investors. In fact, favoring unions is one of the reasons American automakers are in trouble in the first place; it makes it harder for them to compete with foreign products.

  49. Richard Aubrey Says:

    neo.
    Got an 08 Taurus. I’ve liked the Taurus–I’m a fan of grocery getters–for years, but the Fusion just got a bit small. I’m 6’2″. My son spotted a real deal for the new Taurus, which is sort of a crossover, actually the 500 renamed.

    Yeah. I mentioned the Sonata at a party recently and somebody said you could get it new, loaded, for 23k. Seemed low for such a nice car.

  50. Manju Says:

    But it violated the usual rules of order of creditors on which investors rely

    The order of creditors applies to ch 7. If the hedgies wanted to go that route they could’ve. In that case the order would’ve certainly been followed by the judge.

    However, the hedgies and other holders of secured debt would’ve gotten even less there, so they opted out and decided to go to a ch 11 where the order is not necessaruly followed, becasue this procedure allows for reorginization. ergo, the nick-name re-org. the order got reorginized.

    Obama deployed hardball tactics that are usual in vulture capitalism…forcing someone to renegotiate. Indeed, when the plan to save chrysler became known, JP Morgan went for the kill…demanding full repayment (by the govt) of chrysler’s debt. Obama then went on TV and called their bluff, saying then ch 7 it is…where your holy order of creditors would be honored.

    JPMorgan then basically lost their bowel control and fell in line, knowing damn well ch 7 would be result in a huge loss. Obama outplayed them

    in doing so it had a chilling effect on investments

    this is far fetched since the obama plan netted the investors more than ch 7 would have. They just didn’t get the % of the loot they wanted. But since there was more loot, ie the govt put in money, they got more in total dollars.

    I believe that Chrysler should not have been bailed out.

    Thats a defensable postion but this bailout is suppossed to be “One of the most astoundingly leftist acts he has performed,” so much so that it raises the spectre of marxism.

    My guess is the right-wing foucs on the order of creditors is meant to distinguish this bailout from others done by repub presidents. But as I’ve demnonstrated the order is a non-issue.

    However, the bailout itself remains an issue. If you think the loss of jobs, the potential domino effect on a collapsed economy, and the loss of a mnufacturing center important to national security did not justify it, then make the case.

    I understand that govt bailouts distort makets, create a moreal hazard, enable corruption, and redistribite weath to the less productive. That’s a serious argument to make. But if you make it you then have to grapple with the fact that bush (thru paulson) bailed out the whole financial sector. He intervened in the health-care maket to redistribute money to seniors and drug companies. even worse, he did it without raising taxes or cutting speding so the govt had to borrow to pay for it.

    Greenspan (under George I) organized a bail out of long-term capital managment, the giant hedge fund whose colapse was, imo, a precursor to wall streets most recent one. Reagan raised tariffs for the benefit of harley davidson, protecting them from competion and screwing over the american dealers who sold hondas. Nixon went much further, intiatiated price and wage controls while complaining about “price gougers”

    Why isn’t the spectre of Marxism raised for W, HW, Reagan, and Nixon? At least the John Birch society was consistent, in calling Ike a commie.

  51. neo-neocon Says:

    manju: there’s the bailout itself, which I’m against whoever does it. If you read most fiscal conservatives on Bush’s economic policies, they are harshly critical of him and consider him no conservative at all.

    And then there’s the details of the Chrysler bailout. I’m not an expert on the details of the other bailouts, but I’m not under the impression that they involved favoring unions over first creditors. You will notice that I wrote [emphasis mine]: “One of the most astoundingly leftist acts he has performed was his running roughshod over the first creditors’ rights in the Chrysler bailout and putting his favored unions before them…”

    It was not the bailout itself, but that action regarding the unions, plus the bailout, plus the scope and number of bailouts under Obama and how he chose to deal with them (because, after all, he had choices), plus a host of other actions, plus rhetoric of his that was and is mostly anti-business and fosters class hatred and class warfare—all of which creates the entire picture of Obama’s overwhelming leftism. But that act regarding the unions was a turning point for me in the way I regarded Obama and his economic outlook and agenda.

  52. neo-neocon Says:

    manju: Here’s a quote from a post I wrote back when the Chrysler bailout was happening. It explains the extraordinary nature of what Obama did and the choices he made:

    In order to understand just how unusual and lopsided the UAW/Chrysler deal is, just read the NY Times on the subject. Calling it the “Cadillac of bankruptcies” (and here I thought Cadillac was a GM product)—at least where the unions are concerned—the Times points out that the UAW:

    …has received upfront protection from the Treasury Department for its pension plan and the fund that will take over responsibility for retiree medical benefits. Moreover, that fund, called the voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA, will control 55 percent of the equity in the new Chrysler once it emerges from bankruptcy, and hold a seat on the Chrysler board.

    Not too shabby—especially compared to similar situations:

    Labor and restructuring lawyers said such a comprehensive deal going into bankruptcy was rare.

    “This is extraordinary, truly extraordinary,” said Mary Jo Dowd, a partner in the financial and bankruptcy restructuring practice at Arent Fox in Washington. “I never would have thought a year ago that this would occur. These are truly unusual times.”

    Asked if he could recall any other union that fared as well, David L. Gregory, a labor law professor at St. John’s University, replied: “Nobody’s even close.”

    There’s quite a bit more in that vein. What Obama did seems to have been unprecedented.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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