18 January 2012

List of things I don't get

1) I realize Romney is tone deaf and I can see where a Democratic campaign might make rhetorical hay out of his "vulture capitalism". I don't understand why he can't explain what actual market function that serves. Being able to break up and wind down over extended or even failing corporations is an essential feature of creative destruction, which is an essential feature of a vital and dynamic economy capable of growth and development. The supposition is that he destroyed thousands of jobs. First, the reality is that most of those jobs would have gone away anyway as a company restructured itself repeatedly through its death throes. Second, destroying or breaking up a company implies two other things. A) that there are jobs available to take down any infrastructure or to purchase it and repurpose it for new business ventures or b) that the company probably failed because of new industries or new competitive players. Sears is still around but it's no longer the dominating player in retail it was 40 or 50 years ago. Wal-Mart took that spot. Borders is gone, but Amazon took over. Horse and carriage are gone, but cars and trucks are here. And so on. The implication is that jobs when they are destroyed are not replaced in some other way. They tend to be.They are however not always the same jobs. One of the problems with our present economy seems to be a systemic unemployment situation. America still makes lots of goods and products, but we don't need as many unskilled human laborers to do so, so there are fewer manufacturing jobs available. We have a surplus of houses (and a government insistent on not letting that market price fall enough to begin to clear), so we don't need as many construction workers or electricians and contractors. And so on. Now. This isn't terribly different from in the past. We used to have mostly farmers or plantation "workers" (slaves that is). Then everybody went to work in factories. Now we don't have as many factories or at least as many needed workers for factories. They will need to go do something else. That's the actual economic problem that needs to be addressed is how to preserve human capital in unemployed workers and allow them to repurpose themselves for future employment if their capital is in now useless fields. Horse and buggy manufacturers surely went mostly bankrupt when the automobile became mainstreamed. Nobody cries for them now. We now have lots of health care jobs, of tech jobs, and so on. At some level we should be talking about how to prepare people for even the most basic of these fields. And that's a lot harder than talking about the tax code or about "regulations", as both parties seem content to do. A further related topic with such firms like Bain would be to discuss the tax treatment of capital accumulations or of payouts to hedge fund management and equity management types as individuals. This is happening, but it's kind of in the weeds politically.

2) The dog whistles about food stamps. Uh, hello. The economy, as you are content to tell us every two seconds, is still in a terrible shape. Naturally lots of people are dependent right now on some amount of government subsidies and handouts, or charities if not that. Creating jobs for them is a) not a task the government is particularly good at in the first place (also something Republicans are content to tell us, except when it is convenient not to) and b) will take a while for the labour markets to clear and for most people to find or invent jobs for themselves. That means you still have to deal with the probability of high levels of public suffering in the short term. If you want to whine about unemployment insurance and food stamps as opposed to some more efficient government backstop to create a social safety net (wage insurance as in Germany is one option, as is a negative income tax or general cash transfers instead of food stamps and housing assistance), be my guest. I also think you'll have to overlook that there's an implicit marginal tax rate on people trying to break out of poverty and into marginally better lives for themselves that's extremely high. Food stamps are one of the few government programmes that takes this into account and phases itself out. But most everything else does not, meaning there's a huge hit in actual income and thus a return to an impoverished status even if wages are increased. And meanwhile this is all being brought up so you can score points with the same aggrieved white people who were complaining about welfare queens and now equally mythical hordes of illegal immigrants stealing public services? Kind of cheap if you ask me. Find something better to talk about. You're supposed to be smart Newt. Show me.

3) Ire and glee surrounding Tim Tebow's rises and falls. I don't care that much about football for starters. But what I do know is this
a) Quarterbacks are rarely that important to team success. Tebow for instance could not have done much to prevent the Patriots from scoring 45 points. Hence, his success was generally overrated and the level of attention undeserved. This is not a Tebow-related problem. Few quarterbacks are very good enough to provide a substantial impact on their team's ability to win games (there might be 5 or 6 such players in the league), and even there there are arguments concerning the system of offense being employed to maximize their skills, the level of protection they receive from linemen and so on. Tebow's reputation also benefits from a change in scheme which preferred Denver's strong running game over his mediocre passing skills (and allowed them to rest their defense by running the clock and controlling the ball, especially at altitude at home), a relatively weak schedule and a terrible division, and most of their challenging games being played at home (two of which they lost big, Detroit and New England, and two they barely won, Chicago and Pittsburgh over banged up teams). Point being, don't pay attention to quarterbacks. The media will do that for you.
b) He deserves credit for his actions off the field, though he's hardly alone in being a charitable and giving person in the sports world. Many sports figures do not attract or desire attention for so doing, or they do so in less public ways. Shaq used to go into a Wal-Mart and pay for the next 10-15 people in line, as but one example (he also volunteered as a cop for a while). One may argue this is different than visiting with sick and dying people and showering them with attention, but there are plenty of athletes who do the latter. Or who visit with young children and encourage them to read, etc. Public services undertaken by famous people is nice. But I'm not sure it should be regarded as special or even unusual. They have means, and they use them in a manner they see fit. That should be enough.
c) nobody should care very much about his religious views. Including religious people. The number of football players who will pray or point to the sky or cross themselves in a religious manner after a successful play is enormous. This suggests that there's hardly a dearth of such faithful gestures.The implication is either 1) Christians are being persecuted for the faith in our society. I'd like to know where I can sign up for this war on religion draft board personally. Because I haven't seen any evidence of this. or 2) that there aren't very many such people in athletics, or the country more broadly. I'm fairly confident that Christianity is still the dominant social-cultural more in our society, even if it suffers from infighting and theological division. It also isn't really going away anytime soon. One reason most people, even atheists like me, "don't like" Tebow is that he can't throw a football very well and thus he's received outsized credit for his team's successes (and to some extent, outsized blame for their failures). But the main reason is that he's been adopted or anointed by the same persecution complex and holier than thou people that we despise and find annoying in our society when he doesn't appear to actually want such attention, think of himself as holier than thou or as persecuted. He seems more interested in being a "good" person and a modestly successful person who gives back their own attention and money and time to others in need. These are often associated strongly with being Christian. But they're not exclusive to said community. Leave him the fuck alone I say. Quit trying to put people in your fights that don't belong there. You're the same idiots who didn't read Jefferson and Madison and thus think there's no "separation of church and state" in the Constitution because the literal phrase doesn't appear. I'd hate to think what you would do if you could revise history so fully in every sphere of life as you appear to want to do, but when you're injecting these turf wars over social features into otherwise meaningless things like a football game, it's getting really irritating for everyone. I hate to tell you this, but I can't imagine your god cares who actually wins these football games. Vegas does. And that's it. They are ultimately games. Not some special method of arbitrating political and social issues.


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