Friday, March 5, 2010

603. Jim Bunning started it

As everyone knows, the very senior junior United States Senator from Kentucky, the Honorable Jim Bunning, a Republican, began a one-man filibuster last week which carried over the weekend and became the talk not only of the town but also of the nation, holding hostage a $10,000,000,000.00 (ten billion dollar) piece of legislation with the goal, among other things, of extending unemployment benefits for one month to those whose benefits had expired. The filibuster, consisting of the repeated words "I object" eventually, thankfully, came to an end. A different bill allowing for the benefits passed the Senate this week, although without the support of either of Kentucky's United States Senators.

Bunning's one-man conversation served as a genesis for many, many more throughout the Republic. Some were phone calls, some were comedy shows, some were radio segments, and others could be overheard in conversations at the Kroger, the post office, or the coffee-hour after Mass on Sunday.

One of those conversations, in which I participated, began on Tuesday (and ran through (at least) today), with an initial statement by Preston Bates. Preston, for the record, is a dear friend of mine, someone I've written of many times on the blog. He is a junior (I think) at the University of Louisville. He is politically engaged both at his school and in his community, being elected as a Legislative District Chair on the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee in April, 2008, at the age of 19, a position he still holds. He is one of my favorite people on the planet, this despite some of his political beliefs, which became the discussion of a thread on Facebook, a thread I have copied below.

There are several people in the thread, so let me identify them as best I can. Many I do not know but will offer here the knoweledge they provide on their respective Facebook pages.

In order of appearance:

Preston Bates, age 21, from Louisville, a politically engaged resident, and a student at the University of Louisville.

Yours Truly, 49, of Louisville, a graudate of Spalding University in Louisville, edging ever closer to the half-century mark.

Michael Hughes, 21, of Peoria, Arizona, a student at the University of Arizona.

Ed Springston, 46, of Louisville, someone I have met, a Republican candidate for the Kentucky House District 28, and a blogger whose views can be found at springston.blogspot.com.

Andrew Grabhorn, about 21, of Louisville, a student at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky.

Mande Williams Kalbfleisch, age unknown, of Carrollton, Texas.

Abby Hall, about 21, of Louisville, a student at Bellarmine University in Louisville.

Kenneth Alan Herndon, 52, of Louisville, someone I've known for 19 years, a politically active resident, twice elected to the sans-portfolio office of Jefferson County Judge/Executive, who this year did not seek reelection, but has announced his intention to seek for a second time in 2012 the office of Sixth District Louisville Metro Councilman, and a graduate of Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky.

Bruce Maples, in his 50s, of Louisville, someone I've known for several years, a politically active resident who formerly held the Legislative District Chair seat presently held by my friend Bates, a graduate of the Universoty of Tennessee, and a blogger whose views can be read at brucemaples.com.

Nick Searcy, age 21, of Owensboro, Kentucky, and a student at the University of Louisville.

Charley Helms, about 21, of Owensboro, Kentucky, and a student at the University of Louisville.

Sana Abhari, about 22, of Louisville, whom I've met, who has been or may presently be a romantic interest of my friend Bates, and is a student at the University of Louisville and (I believe) presently engaged in being elected President of the Student Government Association. (I haven't figured out to what Sana's comments refer).

Brad Hall, age 22, of Charlestown, Indiana, and a student at the University of Louisville.

*****

I've copied the exchanges verbatim, replete with misspellings, odd sentence structures, inappropriate capitalizations, and so on. Nonetheless, there are some compelling arguments herein and I am proud, especially, of the minds of the young people who commented. While I may or may not agree with them, I am reassured that there is a generation of young people who take the time to think and then express their thoughts and that is a good thing for people like me venturing into their second half-century.

*****

Here is the conversation, remembering, Jim Bunning started it.


Preston Bates: Bunning has a point. Gov't can't solve our problems, and a redistribution of wealth makes society less productive and more impoverised.

Jeff Noble: Governments are based on redistributions of wealth. Any government which levies taxes uses those taxes in myriad ways of redistribution, whether it be unemployment payments or defense contracts. Balancing the budget on the backs of the unemployed is not a fix. It is a schoolyard bully ploy. If Bunning has a plan to pay for the $10,000,000.00 that the other 99 senators do not, he should say so. As should anyone who thinks he has a point.

Michael Hughes: It's not a black and white issue, and saying "redistribution of wealth makes society less productive" is overly reductive (and thoroughly spurious, I might add. Any evidence to support this claim?) and besides that, it misses the point. There's more to consider in governance than an ever-increasing GDP. Social equity comes to mind.

Ed Springston: Jeff in all fairness Bunning did say that we should pay for it out of unused bailout money that is just sitting there instead of borrowing even more money.

Jeff Noble: Unused, but not unappropriated for a particular purpose. There is a major difference. Appropriation bills have a purpose. They are debated up and down on those purposes. And then they are voted up and down on those purposes. There was a large amount of stimulus dollars appropriated in Metro Louisville to rebuild highways and sidewalks. Part of it was spent last year, part of it remains unspent - appropriated, but unused, but with a purpose. Bunning should say what un the stimulus bill he doesn't want to do for the $10,000,000 needed for the unempolyed. He has not done that.

Michael Hughes: By the way, $10 mil is basically an accounting error in the grand scheme of things, so let's not get too hung up on it. Jim Bunning is a douchebag.

Preston Bates: I think he should have gone farther, jeff. Why do taxpayers fund unemployed people at all? Why should those who are working pay for those who cannot or chose no to work? These socialist programs, "social" secuity leadig the way, are federally endorsed ponzi schemes that will collapse. Bunning is no longer in a position to care abot his political capital, so he should speak his mind and just introduce bills to abolish social security, unemployment benefits, and other handouts so that people stop living at the expense of the state

Andrew Grabhorn: Only person that i have heard besides myself say that they can see his point. And its not $10 million people its $10 billion. Its not a tiny amount, there is so much more that we can put that money into, and what are the odds that the people who receive this money will even have jobs in a month? The economy isn't going to improve that fast, the one's that really need it draw welfare and/or social security.

Ed Springston: I understand Jeff but a simple vote to reappropriate the $10 billion in funds would have sufficed as well. Not all the funds have been spent as appropriated yet. Don't get me wrong I am NOT defending Bunning just sayng that he did put forth something when he voted against it. Right or wrong agree or disagree I will leave to others. :-)

Preston Bates: "everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone" -Frederic Bastiat. To michael's concern, any deviation away from strict liberty and individuality is a shift toward collectivism, and the destruction of the self in place of the nebulous communal whole. In fact, individuality, diversity, and rationallity are rooted in enlightenment ideas. Modern "liberals" have stolen the word liberal from classical liberals (search Ludwig Von Mises' book "Liberalism" for more information) who artiulated that point. In fact, there's nothing "liberal" about stealing property in wealth and redistributing said personal property by some bloodless communal body. People are best off when allowed to rationally pursue their own interests at their own will unless it violates the property riggs of another. To both jeff and Michael, the only practical function of government, therefore, should be to protect property rights and allow individuals to be individuals, not conform collectively into some communal ethos.

Jeff Noble: I'm just a crazy old liberal who doesn't know $10M from $10B and that's what wrong with America. We think of it as the government's money and not our own. I'm sure just throwing money at programs is a huge error - that no one on any receiving end is really in need because the truly needy are on welfare and social security. All the others receiving payments, whether they be government contractors or farm subsidy recipients or road builders or whatever will never spend it - no one ever returns money. We keep all of it. That's why America is revered for its fiscal responsibility. My satire can't get any thicker or less serious. Unemployed people are those who don't want to be on welfare and aren't ready for social security. They want to work. They understand budgetting for food, LG&E, and gas to go look for work. You are right. The economy will not improve in 30 days so lets just set these folks out on the edge of Siberia and tell them to fend for themselves.

Ed Springston: Jeff no one said that even Bunning did not say that. He agrees with funding it but thinks we should take existing money and reappropriate it instead of new borrowing. Right or wrong he does make a valid point. The sad thing is the political posturing going on instead of dealing directly with it and moving on.

Michael Hughes: Sorry, that was a typo. Meant to hit the "b". People, when you have a budget of well over 3.5 trillion, yes, ten billion is almost completely irrelevant. It sounds like a hell of a lot of money, but in terms of the overall budget, it's negligible. A trillion is such an abstractly huge number compared to what we're used to dealing with on a day to day basis that it's hard to really keep it in perspective, but really, $10 billion is folding money. And considering it's going to people on unemployment during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, it is completely unprecedented to halt this bill's progress simply because of your political philosophy. Philosophy is fine for, you know, idle conversation at Starbucks, but this is the real world, not political theater, and the real world dictates that a.) 10 billion is a relatively insignificant amount of money and b.) the money is sorely needed.

Mande Williams Kalbfleisch: Preston- I agree with you on this issue for the main part. I don't think the working people should have to support those who ate able bodied and won't go work for what ever reason. Just like I don't think that tax payees should have to pay for an birth control for people to rid them selves of a mistake they made. But here's a thought. Your grandmother is not able to work and she collects social security. Sure it really isn't enough to cover her bill and we as a family have to help her out still. But if you abolish that program what do you propose would help support the elderly that can't work and depend on that money to survive?

Jeff Noble: Preston -- Despite Bastiat's statement - he was speaking at the time about relations between two small monarchies - France and Spain - everyone - everyone, lives at the expense of the state. If not, we would have no government. If you want, as you say, to reduce government to a minimalist role, then get it out of the business of education, out of the business of healthcare such as medicaid, and out of the business of protecting the environment, waterways, and products. Get it out of the business of providing parkspace, out of the business of making car manuafacturers buildi safe cars - and so on. Start with public education. Close the schools, from kindergarten through all the public universities. Make education a program operated solely for profit and soley by private and religious institutions. Then close the parks. They are costly and no one pays for their use. End all payments for medical care to the elderly as many of them should be able to afford it. And especially end medical payments to the poor since they did not pay into the system ever. In short, reduce government as Grover Norquist wants you to.

Michael Hughes: Preston, like I said, political philosophy is fine and dandy, but , and please excuse the language, nobody gives a fuck. Deal with the system we have now, and save the collegiate bullshit for people who care, 'cause I'll tel you who doesn't give a shit about your ideas about the proper place of government in society: people on unemployment. Also, even if your political philosophies were practical , they aren't even close to being rooted in observable human behavior. We are a communal species, if you hadn't noticed. We are not solely defined by our individual wants and desires. We instinctively band together into groups. You think the billions of dollars donated to Haiti in its hour of need was because individuals were acting in their own self-interest or a sense of personal guilt? Hell no. That kind of response comes out of a sense of community with our fellow human beings. So get over your desire for the individual to dictate how our society should work, because that's not even close to reality. Face it: the ideal enlightenment individual doesn't exist. We are just as much defined by our own wants and desires as the wants and desires of those around us. And that's not an abstract philosophical theorem or psychological argument, that's observable fact. So I don't mind the government taking a cut out of my paycheck to help support old people or the unemployed, because all things considered, those programs make this nation a better place to live. Hell, if they didn't exist I wouldn't be alive, as unemployment and welfare are the only reason my great-grandma and grandma survived the Great Depression.

Jeff Noble: I'm argued out, and frustrated that Americans are so much about themsleves and so little about the collective "we". I blame it on Ronald Reagan, but it would take me hours to explain that to people born after he was elected. Having said that, I really, really like what I've just read from Mr. Hughes.

Abby Hall: Preston, I agree. :)

Kenneth Alan Herndon: Mr. Noble is right. I happen to believe in a covenant from one generation to the next and to each other. Everything we do collectively is "socialist" if you want to reduce the world to simplistic, knee jerk, self-serving crap. Police. Fire Department. EMS, etc. the next time your house catches fire, live your liberatrian dream and put it out yourself.

Bruce Maples: Two quick comments ---- Jeff has already done an excellent job of arguing the liberal/progressive viewpoint (which, Preston, I once thought you were), so I won't add more except to say "what he said."
-- Bunning's is an ass, not because he chooses to stand on principle (which I doubt), but because he does it in a way guaranteed to cause the greatest harm to the most people, and he doesn't give a shit. In fact, he cares more about missing a ball game than he does about people going bankrupt through no fault of their own. As for principle, he had no problem voting for other budget-busting measures. He just decided to give the finger to the poor, figuratively and literally.

Nick Searcy: "I educated myself; I went to the library where books are free." Glenn Beck at CPAC 2010 on progressivism I've been saying that you seem more GOP than dem, at least on anything but social issues (GOP wants to keep the gov out of our wallets and in our social structure). Anyway, I'm all for checking the spending on the social safety net, I just don't think he's doing it the right way. Do you realize that by doing this he's wasting government money? This will get passed via couture if it must, but after we have already paid to shut these programs down and start them back up, and after those 200,000 living on this money have had to take a break for however long. We can argue about 'what government is for' all day long, but the truth is that in a (representative) democracy, the government is for whatever the voters say it's for. If voters think government should only be there to protect property rights and allow individuals to be individuals, then it will be; if voters think government should provide services such as public access to books, and social safety nets, it will. In short, I think your problem is either with the idea of democracy, or those participating in our specific representative democracy.

Charley Helms: Nick, the idea of our representative and divided system is actually not for 'whatever the voters say it's for.' We'd have a direct democracy if that was the point. The point is to follow the will of the voters with qualifications - in many cases, popular opinion is flat out wrong, and following it would lead to disaster. This places congressmen in an interesting position of choosing between the role of delegate and trustee. Bunning may feel he is actually doing both, since many of his base may actually agree with him.

Jeff Noble: Ed Springston correctly pointed out I made a few errors above and I stand corrected with regard to those. I am glad this little crisis has passed. Bunning, who professed to be supportive, voted no anyway as did McConnell. They stand together on the matter. I stand against that type of oppression, which is what those votes represent. And to Preston, I appreciate your beliefs but I also believe they are antithetical to a country whose guiding document begins with the words "We the people . . ." which indicates a collectiveness as opposed to "We the individuals . . ." which would not. But, you still possess a special place in my litany of friends.

Nick Searcy: Charley, I didn't say the idea of our representative democracy is 'whatever the voters say it's for', I said that's the truth of it. Basically, who cares what anybody says the point is, if the voters disagree. Our constitution police are really the only check on 'whatever the voters want' happening, and lately loose interpretations of our beloved constitution have resulted in very lame constitution police. If voters elect congressmen who follow the will of the voters without qualification, then what ensures than any congressmen who follow the will of voters with qualification will still be around?

Sana Abhari: Where is dr. Gohmann?

Brad Hall: "Impoverized" isn't a word. Do you mean impoverished?

Nick Searcy: I'm pretty sure he put that in there to see who was smartest. Congratulations! You win! And here I was spending my meager brain power thinking about his overall message...

Preston Bates: Mande, While our story is sad and unfortunate, the fact of the matter stands: it is not rational to ask someone in alaska to subsidize the lifestyle of someone living in texas. in your comment, you touch on something that is imperative to the study of economics often over-looked and will be the contingent point of my argument: all value is relative. something is valuable because humans say it is. there is not some intrinsic level of value that is natural to objects animate or inanimate. individuals and larger groups thereof assign value to things based upon their own relative tastes, preferences, ideas, wants, needs etc therefore, if family is something that you and i value, then we have the liberty and the freedom to financially support our family, our friends, and others in society if we so chose. that said, this is a dichotomous argument, and therefore, the opposite must also be true. if someone does not value family, etc. then society should not mandate that person to subsidize, spend resources on, or otherwise support those endeavors. this reality and principle is the foundation of charity. government, however, has never proven to be efficient or effective at charity or spending money. in fact, because government (in democracies most especially) are representative of the entire sum, they are obligated to a principle of fairness and equity, not reason nor efficiency. this truth is the reality of us social programs. because private markets allocate resources more efficiently than public redistributive institutions, it is rational to expect a better product (cheaper, higher quality, faster service, etc) in a market where competition is the driving force, not esoteric principles.

Preston Bates: Preston -- Despite Bastiat's statement - he was speaking at the time about relations between two small monarchies - France and Spain - everyone - everyone, lives at the expense of the state. If not, we would have no government. If you want, as you say, to reduce government to a minimalist role, then get it out of the business of education, out of the business of healthcare such as medicaid, and out of the business of protecting the environment, waterways, and products. Get it out of the business of providing parkspace, out of the business of making car manuafacturers buildi safe cars - and so on. Start with public education. Close the schools, from kindergarten through all the public universities. Make education a program operated solely for profit and soley by private and religious institutions. Then close the parks. They are costly and no one pays for their use. End all payments for medical care to the elderly as many of them should be able to afford it. And especially end medical payments to the poor since they did not pay into the system ever. In short, reduce government as Grover Norquist wants you to. Jeff,
Thanks for providing me context on Bastiat's quote. Compared to now, you're right: government was small. I also concede your point, everyone does live, to some extent, at the expense of government. the old confederation lacked the power to levy taxes, and so it failed. After our forefathers upgraded to USA version 2.0, we have managed to the oldest, longest modern democracy--no small feat and something of which Americans should be proud. And yes, the "minimalist" role as you put it is synonymous with the most liberal role. Liberal comes from Latin "Liber" meaning free. "Neo-Liberals" (as i am now attempting to coin the term) or modern "progressives" stole the word at some point and gave the opposite connotation. this is ironic, as now its modern connotative and denotative meanings are contradictory. less i digress. An increase of freedom is predicated on a decrease from unlawful obligation. Bastiat called laws that regulated taxation code and redistributive behavior "legal plunder" in his book "The Law" because gov't sanctioned and partook in the ongoing theft of property from others by levying high taxes. So an increase in freedom would correspondingly result in less "legal plunder" or high taxes. Now, you do make a few fair points regarding "public goods" or items and services that have positive externalities for society: national and domestic defense, infrastructure, schools, fire departments, parks, etc. I'm not a "Bastiat, reduce gov't down to the norquist, bath-tub size" kind of guy. but i do think that there is tremendous difference between transfer payments (which are not factored into the manner by which societies evaluate their growth and of which contain all social programs) and these public goods. I'm not proposing alternative organization to society, but i am trying to raise that discussion by critiquing what i observe. i hope that all of our motivations are driven by a desire to see our society be as best off as possible. i kno that's my desire.

Preston Bates: to jeff again, the word "people" is simply another word for a group of individuals. one is born alone and one dies and rots alone. and in between, one is responsible solely for his or her own. also, i don't think americans are uniquely "about themselves." i think its endemic to all persons. no one else is responsible for another's overall well-being more so than that person. this is true of all humans.

Preston Bates: ken, see my point about public goods above.

Preston Bates: and bruce, first. i was a neo-liberal until i listened to aristotle and got educated. now i'm just a liberal. and secondly, you're probably right about bunning. he does always look mad! haha

Preston Bates: nick and charley, i think most Americans are, in modern terminology, "fiscally conservative" and "socially liberal". I would go farther and say that this has been the dominant pattern for Americans since the origin of the US. i agree with you about wasting gov't money, and i agree with the difficulties you raise about representative democracy. charley re-articulated the difference between representative and direct democracies, but i think you're touching on their seemingly dissolving boundaries in the US. the pressures of populism are weighing heavily on representatives, so naturally the observable is a deviant away from small government toward big government and socialism. oh democracy! churchill was right; you are the worst form of gov't besides all the rest! haha

Preston Bates: to jeff's final place, i'm comforted knowing that our friendship is unaffected by a lively discussion of economics and politics. it seems as though others in this debate were more hysterical than others for reasons that escape me. maybe that's it. maybe i'm living in the world of reason and there's a madness of unreason ensuing out there...

Preston Bates: brad, i didn't write "impoverized" but i mistyped "impoverished" while using my twitter interface for facebook via my iphone. i'll let the hubris of your mis-correction stand on its own without further comment.

Preston Bates: due to the intensity this issue has created, i thought it appropriate to respond to each person. one by one. if we are to continue this forum, i humbly suggest that we do so in the "note" format and tag one another.

Jeff Noble: I'm not sure what the "note format and tag" thing means so I will comment here. In your "to jeff again" segment above, you have outted yourself as to where you stand on our collective roles vis-a-vis each other and thereby defined the two arguments which tread through this thread. You believe we have no communal roles vis-a-vis each other. You wrote "one is born alone and one dies and rots alone. and in between, one is responsible solely for his or her own." The first and second phrases are facts. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust is the langugage we've adapted from the Book of Genesis. The third phrase, however, is a fundamental difference in your and my beliefs. I absolutely do not believe that "in between one is responsbile solely for his or her own." Such a statement goes against every fiber of my being. In between, we are communal beings, even those of us who live rather hermit-like lives. We live and hopefully learn the so-called golden rule - "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," a tradition which be traced back in societies to at least 3000BCE. This entire thread can be divided, as most things can, into two groups: those of us who believe the so-called golden rule has application in our lives, and those who believe in its fundamental opposite, that "in between, one is responsible solely for his or her own."

*****

Your comments are welcome.

5 comments:

Kaven Rumpel said...

Preston makes some good points.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Preston Bates who is the a Democratic Party LD Chair and who worked for Jim King for two months? If so, your youth proves your ignorance, and you might consider switching political parties. Your points are so far to the right on these issues that you if you were to look to your left you may see Karl Rove.

Grow up, read a few more books, and join the Republican Party.

Preston S. Bates said...

anonymous (probably denise bentley, but nonetheless: thanks for taking the time to read my posts. it's humbling to know that someone labored through my dense writing long enough to comment. obviously you didn't understand enough to make a substantive retort and must resort to the cliche, subjective quixotian jousts. maybe it is you that should read some more, no? in doing so, you'd first observe that my comments aren't to the "right" but libertarian. there's hardly a difference between the right and the left in contemporary politics. and because this basic point must be made, i will not exhaust time or energy explaining terms, ideas, and elaborate constructions when such an investment will clearly prove worthless.

Preston S. Bates said...

well, i guess my last attempt at this was moderated. and that's a true shame.

anonymous, you clearly need to get educated on the new political spectrum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_spectrum). as far as your chide remarks, i would suggest that it is truly the child who seeks for handouts and expects spoon feeding.

Preston S. Bates said...

well, i guess my last attempt at this was moderated. and that's a true shame.

anonymous, you clearly need to get educated on the new political spectrum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_spectrum). as far as your chide remarks, i would suggest that it is truly the child who seeks for handouts and expects spoon feeding.

The Archives at Milepost 606

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Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Single, male, bald, overweight, early 50s, seeking . . . Oh wait, that's goes on the other website. How about this - never married, liberal Democrat, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.